Kiran Chetry, Google, and a reminder that photos live forever

April 5, 2007, 7:26 AM UTC

Yesterday morning during my usual scan of the news, I noticed that CNN American Morning is undergoing shakeup; Miles O’Brien and Soledad O’Brien (who aren’t related) are out as anchors, to be replaced by John Roberts and Kiran Chetry. Kiran Chetry? The piece told me she grew up in Gaithersburg, Maryland. Boy, the name sounded familiar – and it promised to drive me crazy until I connected the dots.

So I did my usual 10-second background check and Google (GOOG) image-searched her.

When the results popped onto the screen I immediately knew why the name sounded familiar. Her face had barely changed at all – I remembered her from Montgomery Blair High School, always the attractive bundle of joyful energy. I didn’t know her at all; I probably never said a word to her in the two years we shared the halls. But that was the girl.

To stomp out any lingering doubt, I strolled over to the living room bookcase and pulled out my 1991 edition of the Montgomery Blair yearbook, which is now falling apart, and flipped back to the index. Yep – Kiran Chetry. With the other juniors on page 93. (The yearbook also reminded me that she served on both the student government council and the pom squad that year.)

OK, so she grew her hair out, and she dresses like a network anchor now. But from what I can tell, she still accessorizes with thin gold necklaces.

The whole thing got me thinking about how this process will play out 15 years from now, when today’s high school kids are having their Kiran Chetry moments. Yearbooks are dying out, so many kids won’t have them as a reference. What they will have is the crush of social networks including MySpace and Facebook, where many teens upload dozens of pictures; they’ll also have video sites like YouTube, where thousands of teens record webcam diaries on a semi-regular basis.

So far there’s no master index to link real names to those scattered photos, videos and profiles, but tagging is getting better all the time. And who knows – by then facial recognition software might be good enough that search engines like Google and Riya will find those old photos for you.

On the one hand, that’s kind of scary. On the other, it will make for some pretty nifty 10-second background checks.