In a world where it’s the norm to replace old for new, we’re leaving behind a trail of information on the Internet – some of it less than favourable. Being in charge of security and compliance at iiNet, I am often asked about online security and how to be safe online.
Recently I was approached by a young school-leaver who was having trouble scoring a job interview despite her good grades and references. I offered to review her resume, looking for grammatical mistakes, or spelling errors but found it to be flawless.
Looking on Facebook, I easily found her profile. Although fairly locked down, parts of it were still public with memberships to such groups “It’s only a good night if you can’t remember any of it.” It seems that potential employers were also having a look online.
As an internet user, you leave behind a digital footprint – think of it as your cyber paper trail. Some information is classed as your passive digital footprint (or digital shadow) such as your name and address, images of you on a surveillance camera, information about your web searches, credit card purchases, and even the specific longitude and latitude of pictures that you upload.
Information that you voluntarily & deliberately submit (think pictures, blogs, tweets, or Facebook wall posts) count towards your active digital footprint. Both footprints combine to form your online reputation, or the opinion that others hold of you. This digital footprint can act as a reality check for many when they realise postings they made as a teen might come back to haunt them as an adult.
Having a digital footprint is not necessarily a bad thing – having e-Bay recognise you as a trustworthy seller or Amazon make suggestions based on your purchase history makes the net that little bit more convenient. Users just need to be aware that any information, photos or even visited websites become property of the world wide web – and it’s not simply a matter of clicking the ‘delete history’ button.
Ultimately, your online brand matters- so learn to control it by claiming your virtual real estate and building up your favourable content to push any negative online footprints to the bottom of any searches.
Follow these simple steps to improve your online image:
– Use your full name for your Facebook and Twitter pages (these will inevitably form the top search results when people are looking for you.) Once you’ve done this- maximise your privacy settings.
– Avoid damaging online behaviour by removing anything that suggests addiction, dishonesty, anger, political or religious views, and information about current or previous employers. While you’re at it, get rid of incriminating photos by un-tagging yourself and asking the owner to delete them permanently.
– Upload a professional (and purposely public) profile via Linked In to show career highlights.
– Comment on blogs or articles that will display you as the thoughtful and intelligent person you are – not the drunk party goer from “that” university bash.
– Consider registering your name as a domain.
– Use Google Alerts to monitor what others are saying about you and react quickly should disaster arise.