Friday, July 29, 2011

Could Your Online History Come Back To Haunt You?

Posted by Amanda Walsh

We’ve all heard the warnings before — watch what you put on social media, it may come back to haunt you! Recent articles have highlighted that some companies are able to dig up online data on you from several years ago.

I first heard about this news via the blog the PROwl. The blog features posts written by students from the student-run PR firm at my alma mater, Temple University. Student Emily Ascani posted a brilliant article highlighting recent news about HR firms dedicated to digging up online dirt on job candidates. In the article, Emily references a CNN interview with Max Drucker, CEO of Social Intelligence, that can be found here.

I started to do some more research about this and came across a New York Times article titled, Social Media History Becomes a New Job Hurdle, which references the same company, Social Intelligence. The company provides services to employers looking to hire talent by scouring the Internet and preparing 7-year report of prospective job candidate’s online activity!

In response to the article, Saavysugar associate editor, Emily Co came up with a list of tips on how to manage your online identity to avoid messing up opportunities for a job in the future. We’ve added additional commentary to the tips below:

- Google yourself: Don’t just type your name into Google, but be sure to constantly monitor your identity by setting up Google alerts for your name and combinations of other keywords. For example, look for your name and industries you’ve worked in, your past employers, schools you’ve attended, and extracurricular activities.

- Make a list of emails and accounts: Check up on those old email accounts that you may have forgotten about. Try to access them and take a look at old websites, online journals or other accounts that you may want to take a look at. Remember when LiveJournal was so popular? Did you have an account and get a little too personal on the blog? Scour for red flags on these ancient accounts and even delete them if you’re not comfortable with them being active.

- Play around with privacy settings: We have learned that nothing that is ‘private’ is really private but even so, consider turning your Twitter stream into a private account. Check your Facebook settings to be sure that users who aren’t your friend only see the bare minimum of your accounts. Some options make you unsearchable on Facebook. Google Plus is still fairly new and I would caution newbies to be extra vigilant with privacy settings as the site continues to evolve and resolve bugs.

- Don't put up anything racy or offensive: We always advise clients to keep their online identity in line with a company social media policy but more importantly, remember you are representing the company no matter what. For those who are job searching, a good rule of thumb is to not post any comments, photos or videos of yourself doing anything you wouldn’t want your grandmother to see. We agree with Emily’s advice, “The best way to keep your record clean is to be clean on the Internet."

It’s better that you take the proactive step to monitor your online identity now and from the past. Try to go back and delete anything questionable, however recognizing that photos or comments are out there is the first step to correcting the issue. If you find something you are unhappy with, Google now features a product called, Me on the Web to help users remove unwanted data.

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