Smarter sharing choices and your online reputation

Nokia Lumia launch-50

When people think about online reputation management they frequently think about expression on social services like Twitter and Facebook. Equally important is the link between online sharing and reputation. Microsoft published a report last month titled “Online Reputation Management Is a Two-Way Street” which considered the impact public sharing has on reputation. The report has some interesting findings –

  • While 91 percent of people have done something to manage their overall online profile at some point, 67 percent feel in control of their online reputation, and 44 percent of adults actively think about the long-term consequences of their online activities.
  • 14 percent of people believe they have been negatively impacted by the online activities of others, even unintentionally so. Of those, 21 percent believed it led to being fired from a job, 16 percent being refused health care, 16 percent being turned down for a job, and 15 percent being turned down for a mortgage.

Taking more effective steps to safeguard your reputation means being more circumspect about what you share and with whom. As Microsoft’s Chief Privacy Officer points out –

“Your online reputation is shaped by your interactions in the online world and spans the disparate and varied data about you, whether created and posted by you or others. This information can have a lasting presence online, and can affect your life in many ways – from maintaining friendships, to helping you keep or land a new job,” says Microsoft’s chief privacy officer Brendon Lynch.

Some practical steps you can take to better protect your reputation and your privacy include the following:

  • Familiarise yourself with your social service’s privacy controls and adjust them to suit your preferences (there is nothing wrong with only sharing your Facebook posts with your friends and family);
  • Read and take notice of your social service’s privacy policy (modern privacy policies are written in plain language and have important information about what personal information is collected and what is done with it);
  • Take the time to also read your social service’s terms and conditions (these documents look like long, rambling torture devices but some of the clauses are very important – these include the content licensing provisions which set out the permissions you grant in respect of your content);
  • Search for yourself using various search engines to see what comes up (this sounds vain but knowing what is associated with you online is a basic reputation management technique – companies use paid online reputation management services, you can use free services like Google Alerts and saved searches on Twitter to do some cost effective tracking of your own if the commercial services are out of your price range);
  • Think carefully about making public statements or expressing your opinion on a topic if doing so may cause offence; and
  • Perhaps one of the most understated and most effective privacy controls you have is not to share in the first place (simply put, don’t share anything you wouldn’t want to be made public and appear in search results when someone searches for your name).

Privacy, as is secrecy, is a rarity and we share more and more each day (roughly 50 million tweets per day and Facebook had 845 million users at the end of December 2011). Moreover, there is an increasing number of services that can create aggregated profiles based on information drawn from a variety of online sources. If your reputation is important to you, it is essential that you start paying attention to what you share and think carefully about the possible ramifications for your reputation in the months and years to come.

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