The internet is forever. Almost a cliche now in the ongoing campaign to make people aware of protecting their personal information while online, the ever-evolving social web is causing more people to share more of their private information. With platforms like Facebook thriving on knowing exactly you are and how you live, the amount of data publicly available on each of us is increasing at an alarming rate and with the potential consequences only now being realized.
If you want to protect yourself, there are two things that you need to know: who is looking for information and what information can be damaging? Read on to learn more about protecting yourself against online reputation research.
Who is Researching?
While the most obvious answer to this question is “employers,” it is necessary to note that online reputation research may also be conducted by institutions such as government offices, banks, educational entities, law enforcement and others, putting anyone with a spotty social media record at risk.
Given that the information that you post about yourself online is open to the public and able to be Googled by anyone at any time, best practices suggest that you simply assume that everyone from friends to bosses are checking in on you from time to time and getting social accordingly.
What Information Should Be Avoided?
While sharing just about anything online can potentially be damaging down the road, there are obviously a few types of information that those researching you are most interested in. According to recent studies, the most examined categories of data that proved damaging to those applying for employment were alcohol and drug use, poor communication skills, poor attitude and track record with former employees.
How to Protect Yourself
Keeping in mind that every Facebook update, Tweet and blog post serves as an absolute reflection of your personality to the world, here are four quick tips to protect yourself from online reputation research:
1. Save the Scandalous Photos for Home Viewing
You may be a legendary partier, but most of the world does not need to know thcleanat. While many recreational activities, such as consuming alcohol, are perfectly acceptable, the willingness to put it all out in the open is likely going to concern an employer or someone in a similar role researching your online profiles.
Some things – most, even – are meant to be private, and this includes even the least damning of photographs.
2. Don’t be a Negative Nelly
Your activity on the web serves as your voice to the world at large, so do be sure to make that voice a pleasant one that people won’t cringe when hearing (or reading). Keep your general public point of view on the positive side, giving the impression of a well-adjusted, even if opinionated, person.
Portraying a negative attitude online can lead to an immediate impression of a person who cannot be a team player, casting doubts on your status where employment, education and other competitive areas are concerned.
3. Keep Private Data Private
Assuming you agree to keep private data private, the question is one of where the line is drawn between what’s acceptable in your database of online doings and what isn’t. For the sake of your own future, be very careful to protect the more private aspects of who you are and what you do, keeping them held just as close to your chest as you would in real life and disallowing Google and other web companies from offering it up to the world to see.
A lawsuit in 2011 against Courtney Love ended up costing her more than $400,000 in settlement payments, all resulting from a tirade that Love posted on her Twitter page.
5. Clean Up
As you’re reading this article, you may very well be thinking to yourself that it’s simply too late: you’ve already smeared the web with pictures of frat parties or views on extreme political positions. Thankfully, it’s never too late to clean up your act, even retroactively.
Most of the web’s community pages, including Facebook, Twitter and other social networks, along with forums powered by software such as the very popular vBulletin, allow you to remove content like posts and status updates, even long after the fact. If you’re worried about someone checking up on your online behavior, take the time to crawl through your online activity for the last year or so, pruning or anonymizing where necessary in order to put your best digital foot forward for whoever is interested in researching your online activities.