Other Stuff to Know - 5
The Internet is filled with seductresses taking advantage of your basic need to express yourself, connect with others and belong to a group, any group. Web site after Web site says, “Sign up. Post here. Get it out there. It’s easy and free. You don’t even have to use your real name to do so.” As a result, people are posting millions of personal comments, photos, videos, Twitter messages and blogs on the Internet every day, most with few inhibitions or restraints.
There’s a huge Catch-22 in all of this. Everything you put on the Internet stays on the Internet, permanently. The reality is, if you post something, anything, you’ve published it. As John Battelle, a New York Times technology journalist, stated, “Our tracks through the digital sand are eternal.” It also turns out that you cannot rely on the privacy setting of social- and professional-networking sites to restrict access to some of your data. There are simply no guarantees that what you assumed was private and protected on a Web site is going to be treated that way.
The technology now exits to recover all types of electronic postings, including any deleted materials and encrypted messages. Today, through the application Photo Finder by Face.com, Facebook users can locate any photos of themselves or a friend to be found on Facebook. In the near future, such facial recognition and social-connections software will likely enable an individual and others to pull up all photos of that person that exist anywhere on the Internet. Work is also underway on the development of aggregator programs designed to pull together such images of an individual and all other types of online data posted on a multitude of Web sites by both that individual and anything pertaining to that person posted by others.
The Internet is making it more and more difficult for anyone to hide. If your image is captured on someone’s camera, cellphone or video, there a high probability it will end up on a social media site where your identity will be “discovered”. Furthermore, new GPS technology can now disclose the location of photos taken by cameras and cellphones to within 15 feet of where they were taken as soon as they are posted on the Internet, including on Twitter.
This aggregated information will end up forming your online identity to be used by employers, loan officers, universities, prospective dates and others to size you up and determine your desirability as an employee, borrower, student applicant or mate among other things. These judgments will likely be made in seconds. The providers of such identity files may even prescreen you according to certain rating criteria for their subscribers.
Apart from you having no control over your own identity file, the other big problem with having all this information available is that most people will invariably pay far more attention to the bad stuff than to the good things about you. Unfortunately, the reality is that few will ever take the time or go to the effort of attempting to put the bad stuff in context and weigh it against all your good stuff before making a decision. That’s life.
Microsoft did a recent survey that indicated that 75% of U.S. companies are currently requiring their hiring managers and human resource people to do some online research of job applicants. These professionals are using a variety of tools to do so, including checking search engines, photo and video sharing sites, personal Web sites, social-networking sites, blogs and even online gaming sites and Twitter. Many colleges and universities are also starting to scrutinize student applicants in the same manner. This type of online screening is taking place in one form or another in most parts of the developed world by all types of organizations, including governments.
Given this situation, common sense says don’t be indiscreet in posting any comments, photos, videos, blogs or Twitter messages that can come back to haunt you, even many years later. Also, be careful what you say in chat-rooms and online forums. Don’t take any chances online that run the risk of raising unnecessary questions about your character and reputation in the minds of others, including future prospective employers.
And, unfortunately it’s not just what you do on the Internet that is a cause of concern. You also have to be on guard about what others are posting online when their comments, photos and videos include you. If you are at a party, bar or club, be wary that someone there could be taking photos or videos of you for the purpose of later posting them on the Web. When you’re in this situation, tell your friends that you’d appreciate them not posting any photos or videos on the Internet that have you in them without your permission. Keep in mind that there’s always a chance they will do it anyway.
In the case of social-networking sites, such as Facebook and MySpace, assume that there is a high probability that anything posted under a made-up name will ultimately be linked to the real you, especially if it includes a photo or video of yourself. Again, don’t trust their privacy settings to keep your information restricted.
Exercise some good judgment in what you post on these sites. Categorically, never make any negative comments about your current or former employers, supervisors or co-workers. Don’t use offensive language, refer to any questionable behavior on your part, or post revealing personal photos. Follow the practice of always keeping the intimate details of your personal life to yourself.
Your reputation is a precious asset. Take it seriously. Do not put your reputation in jeopardy by being stupid online, even once. It takes a long time to create an excellent reputation but only a few indiscreet seconds to smear it. Also see Avoiding Identity Theft, Personal Fraud and Other Scams on the Other Stuff To Know section of our Web site at www.COTWguides.com.
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