Practical Privacy and Reputation Guidelines:
1. Define what you consider your private information taking into account the possibility for identity theft, home burglary, child safety, job hunting, and reputation in general.
2. Google and Bing search yourself—set up a monitoring service or reputation repair service if needed
3. Google and Bing yourself at least once a week or month.
4. Look at your public profile for each social media network site.
5. For personal social networking only confirm friends you really know.
6. For personal social networking only have twitter followers you really know.
7. Set privacy settings for your social network page to friends only.
8. Set privacy settings for your applications individually to friends only.
9. Be aware the groups you join will be open to the public on your public profile.
10. Set privacy settings for photos to be viewed by friends only.
11. Set privacy setting to not allow others to tag you in photos or videos.
12. Set up lists for friends only, family only, and professional only.
13. Block those you don’t want to see you on your social network.
14. Monitor comments of others and immediately delete offensive ones.
15. Hide those that post offensive language or pictures to your wall – the first time.
16. Be aware of what this post “says about me” to others before you post it.
17. Would you want your mother to see it—would you want an HR manager to see it—would you want it on the front page of a news outlet. No, don’t post it?
18. Don’t post after a few drinks—things aren’t always as funny when you are sober.
19. Don’t post when you are mad at someone or something. Would you still say it a day from now? Should you be saying it at all “publicly”?
20. Post your vacation comments after you return home – don’t post when you are leaving or that you are gone.
21. Over forty and looking for a job … don’t post birth year or graduation years.
22. Don’t post full birth dates, birthplace, or give out your mother’s maiden name.
23. Don’t post your children’s full names and birthdays—children are a growing target for identity and credit theft.
24. Don’t store credit cards with online shopping sites—would you store a credit card number physically with a bricks and mortar store?
25. Don’t post negative comments about your boss, employees, or employer.
26. Don’t post information about your company that is internal and confidential.
27. Don’t agree to have companies share your information with their affiliates, associates, partners, etc.
28. Remember at all times what you post has the potential to be public.
29. Remember that at some point in your life you will be job hunting.
30. Know it is easier to prevent a privacy and reputation problem than to clean up one.
Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, etc are meant to be fun and a way to express yourself and stay connected. We all get that. It’s sad that our religious views, political views, sexual preferences, age, and whatever may be considered in a job search or any other kind of context by what you post or freely give out on the Internet to the general public. These types of considerations for employment are unlawful, right? Yes, they are, but once seen in a candidate’s Internet search, can the bell ever be unrung for the interviewer that may even subconsciously be considering it? Can it ever really be proven that consideration of this type of personal information is the sole reason why you did not get a job? The reality is everyone uses the Internet to search out information personally and professionally. Prosecutors now regularly use social media networks and Twitter postings as evidence in court cases; police use them in investigations; financial institutions use them in applicant approval due diligence; HR Managers use them as a part of the hiring due diligence; and criminals use them in choosing victims. Lawsuits have been filed for defamation and invasion of privacy over posts and tweets.
What practical planning are you willing to do to ensure your privacy in a social media context? What thought are you giving to personal privacy impact tomorrow, next year, or five years from now in your social media habits today? It’s never too early to start. It may not be cool in college to care, but it will be cool to not have a hard time finding a job once out of college. The first step to taking control of your privacy and reputation preservation is to define your personal private information. Then execute your practical plan to ensure your personal social media habits support what is defined as private—every day, every time. The new reality is it’s all good and just having fun—until it isn’t. And, it’s really no big deal—until it is. Then “I was just having fun.” or “I just didn’t put much thought into it.” are not winning excuses or a defense in the real world. Is it right—is it fair? No, but it is.