Everything we post online is forever present in cyberspace. Emails, updates, messages – even those old photos and videos that make us cringe are stored somewhere in the World Wide Web and can be found if you know where to look. There’s no such thing as a delete button online and given that social networks are often the first port of call for potential employers (or admirers!) it pays to clean up our profiles. BullGuard offers some simple tips on how to come across well online and avoid leaving behind a trail of digital mischief. We also reveal the results of a survey which show just how savvy people are when it comes to looking after their online profile – you might be surprised.
Data Privacy Day on the 28th January has never been more relevant. First launched in the US in 2008 it is now an international endeavour aimed at “respecting privacy, safeguarding data and enabling trust.” Until 2011 it consisted of various privacy projects, but since 2011 it has been under the stewardship of The National Cyber Security Alliance, a non-profit, public-private partnership.
Here’s looking at you
Today the issue of data privacy has become more high profile than ever before. Putting abusive marketers, nosy bosses, spammers and scammers to one side, online privacy is also threatened by industrial espionage, government surveillance, identity theft, disgruntled former associates and system crackers.
Many people at least have some degree of awareness about the need for online privacy but how deep does the understanding for circumspection run? For instance, how many give thought to their online reputation? How many think about the consequences of their online activity? And how many understand that the first port of call for potential employers is an online search to check the profile of potential employees?
A BullGuard survey* of online users revealed that overall the majority of people are savvy when it comes to looking after their online profile. But that said, an alarmingly high number, given the implications, don’t give much mind to what they post online.
Some do, some don’t – what the survey says
For instance, while 64 percent of survey respondents said they give thought to their online reputation 36 percent said they didn’t. A further 77 percent said they also consider how what they post might affect other people but 23 percent said it barely entered their minds. 41 percent said they also post content about other people while 59 percent said they never do.
These figures are encouraging in that they reveal the majority of people have awareness about their online profiles and that informs their actions. However, a relatively large number don’t and therein is the danger. We’ve all heard the horror stories about people posting things without giving it any thought and then reaping an unexpected whirlwind; jobs lost, reputations in tatters and in some cases even getting arrested.
Unsurprisingly 44 percent of survey respondents displayed an acute understanding of potential damage by saying they advised someone about the potential negative effects of what they have posted. An alarmingly high 56 percent said no, it simply doesn’t cross their minds.
You may not be a major league celebrity or high-flying politician or even a B-list sporting star so you may think you don’t have a lot to look out for with your online posts. Well, you could always sound out a potential employer to get a sense of how you come across online – it might be a sobering assessment.
To look after your online profile and ensure that you come across as a polished, bright person with a professional, can-do attitude there are several simple steps you can take.
A list of don’ts
• Keep it clean. Imagine that everything you post is written in the sky for all to see (because in some sense it is).
• Delete photos that show you in a less than flattering light. As a benchmark think of your mother – would you be happy for her to see your online snaps?
• If you’re tagged in a friend’s photo and you aren’t happy with how you come across, ask them to remove it.
• Use the privacy features on social networking sites. You can set your profile so people you don’t know can’t see your page without a request.
• Don’t post negative things about your workplace, especially if you’re working there!
• If you use more than one social networking site don’t post links to others so it’s not easy for people to find information on you.
• Don’t post links to inappropriate websites, it could come back to haunt you.
Strengthen your profile
Google your name
This is an interesting exercise and a good first step – 62 percent of respondents said they had Googled their name to find out what information about them is available to view. It will reveal just how much information about you is present online, though you may need to dig beyond the first search page. Remember that if something is online it’s effectively there forever. You can try variations on your name along with job roles, schools, or groups you’ve joined to refine the search. This a good approach if you have a common name. If something surfaces that you’re not happy with, contact the company and ask them to remove it – it’s your right to do so.
Decide what you want to be seen
The first thing to consider is privacy settings on the social network sites you use. For example, Facebook has a setting which allows only your ‘friends’ to see what you post. It’s a useful tool that helps you edit the digital profile you present to the world, and one that seems to be well used with just 12 percent of Facebook users not changing privacy settings for their profile.
When it comes to networks such as LinkedIn and Twitter you should take a different approach. LinkedIn is a top choice for recruiters looking for people to fill vacant positions. With this in mind it’s a good idea to keep your posts polished and professional.
The same can be said of Twitter, which can really propel you into the public eye. If any of your profiles contain out-of-context rants, old company employee pages, or put downs that were funny at the time but today make you cringe they clearly need deleting.
Clean up your profile
If you’re an avid poster and have been for a long time there could be reams of information that you’re no longer happy with and possibly embarrassed by too. You can clean this stuff up but the only problem is that we live in an age of retweets, links and shares that can send your original post or photo towards more online destinations than you ever imagined.
It could take an age to track the material down. In this case it makes more sense to bolster your existing profiles by making them more up-to-date. This will also ensure that if a potential employer searches for your profile the most up-to-date material will appear at the top of the search rankings.
Make your profile positive
“Recruiters use Twitter to post jobs, LinkedIn to source candidates and Facebook to eliminate candidates.” This insightful gem came from LinkedIn trainer and speaker Viveka von Rosen. It tells you all you need to know about employers scrutinising online profiles.
To keep your Facebook profile out of search engine results, go to Settings, Privacy and select ‘No’ in response to the ‘Do you want other search engines to link to your timeline?’ question.
Changing who can see your posts and photos to ‘Friends Only’ means that a potential boss would see only your cover photo, profile photo, plus the information about where you live, work, or went to school. You can also delete posts you’re not happy with – simply click in the top right had corner and ‘edit.’
With LinkedIn it’s a good idea to ‘up’ your profile by bringing it up to date and available to the public. In the ‘Edit Your Public Profile’ section you can tick ‘Make my public profile visible to everyone,’ which will ensure it is visible on search engines.
If you’re on Twitter, regular posts relevant to your field can also build up your online profile for prospective employers. Like LinkedIn, Twitter profiles often turn up on the first page of Google search due to the site’s traffic and content flow. Pick a Twitter name that’s as close to your real name as possible so a search for you will bring up your profile. If your Twitter feed is ‘personal’ you can go to Settings, then Security and Privacy, and Protect to stop the tweets from going out into the public domain.
Other social networks such as Pinterest can be used to create striking profiles, which are especially effective if you’re in a visual/graphic/creative role and want to showcase your talents.
A word on security
Remember the Golden Rule
Never reveal too much. This might include:
• Email addresses
• Phone numbers
• Holiday dates
• Personal address
• Banking details (however slender)
• Pet names
Anything unique and specific to you could be used to personally identify you and find out your job, holiday dates, home address and more. Even pet names should never be broadcast online as they are often used to confirm your identity. There are people out there who dedicate serious time to trawling for personal information for nefarious purposes, so don’t play into their hands.
Who’s making money out of you?
You may think your personal data is yours, but it isn’t. Social networks sell the value of their network and personalized data such as demographics and geographics to advertisers. As such your data is a valuable asset and by sharing data various parties make money. In this sense there is no such thing as private data. With this in mind, keep your personal profiles personal and what you post online innocuous (even if it is less “colourful”) and you’ll be forever safe in the online world.
* Survey of 150 internet users, carried out by BullGuard in Jan 2015
BullGuard is a fast growing internet and mobile security brand. Its award-winning product portfolio includes internet security solutions, antivirus, mobile security, 24/7 identity protection and social media protection for both home and small business users. This includes BullGuard Premium Protection – a unique suite that goes beyond the PC to safeguard personal and financial information by continually monitoring the web, social networks and stolen and compromised data sources.
BullGuard’s product offering is based on proprietary middleware technology which provides Plug & Play architecture to integrate cutting-edge third-party solutions, along with strong in-house development capabilities.
BullGuard sells its security products online and through retail resellers to a rapidly expanding customer base of 650,000, with an industry-leading renewal rate. Its customer base has seen significant growth, with e-Commerce particularly strong at more than 40% year on year growth in 2014.