Main image of article Five Ways to Clean Up Your Online Reputation

Saturday is Data Privacy Day, an event designed to "increase awareness of privacy and data protection issues among consumers, organizations and government officials and help industry, academia, and advocates to highlight consumer privacy efforts." In celebration of this day, it’s worth taking some advice from Brendon Lynch, Microsoft’s Chief Privacy Officer, who recommends five ways to manage your online reputation. This is the image you’ve created of yourself online through blog postings, photos, tweets, and other social media interactions. Given that potential employers have no qualms about “Googling” prospective hires, protecting your online appearance is the same thing as protecting your employability.

  • “Stay vigilant and conduct your own “reputation report” from time to time.” First, search all the variations of your name, and evaluate whether the results reflect the reputation you’d like to share with the world, including current or future employers, colleagues, friends and family members. Remember when you got arrested for tossing water balloons out of your fraternity window in 1998? Uh oh. If you find information about yourself that is inaccurate or unfavorable, request that the person who posted it remove it or correct the error.
  • “Consider separating your professional and personal profiles.” It’s wise to use different e-mail addresses, screen names, referring blogs, and Web sites to cast different professional and personal profiles, and definitely leave the personal stuff out of the professional image as best as you can. You never know what baggage and biases employers are burdened with. There’s no reason you should make yourself a potential target of subconscious prejudices.
  • “Adjust your privacy settings.” Take advantage of whatever privacy settings your browser and social media sites offer. (Step one on Facebook, for example, is to shut out people who aren’t your Facebook “friends.”) Browsers can help you shut down tracking, and in Internet Explorer, for example, you can surf “InPrivate,” so that you leave no digital trail.
  • “Think before you share.” Many of us fire off blog posts, tweets, or updates in the heat of the moment, sharing personal emotions or partisan reactions to news events. Why not try the ten-second rule and breathe a little before you hit Enter? How is what you’re about to post going to reflect on your reputation?
  • “Be a good digital citizen.” Easy to say, but sometimes hard to do. Showing respect for those with whom you engage directly reflects well on both you and them.