How to Protect Your Reputation Online

Four tips for college grads -- and everyone else -- entering the job market.

By
Fri, May 11, 2007

CSO — Job recruiters warn today’s college graduates to avoid creating Web-based evidence of risky behaviors (read: drugs, alcohol and sex) that they wouldn’t want a prospective employer to see. Those already in the workforce can benefit from such reputation-protecting advice too.

“We know that this data for all practical purposes never goes away,” says Mark F. Foley, a partner at Chicago-based Foley & Lardner who advises corporations on data privacy and security issues. “If you upload a 90-second video [of yourself] on the Pensacola beach, there’s a good chance that could be found and used against you someday.”

Share these tips with your HR and legal departments to help your employees keep their online noses clean.

Assume that if people can recognize you, they will. Foley says that companies should remind their workers of the risks involved with representing themselves online, a public place in which the context of their words and actions are not controlled by them. While privacy protections vary by country (France is particularly strong), this advice about avoiding risk informs other tips here.

Think about your online identity. You can always go incognito online; not a bad idea if you’re engaging in controversial commentary that you don’t want attached to you in the blogosphere or on a bulletin board or media outlet. Many, including CSOonline, allow anonymous comment posting.

A new meaning for candid camera. Treat the growing plethora of outlets such as photo-sharing site Flickr, the MySpace Web community, the YouTube viral video hub and others like one big machine that could make—or break—your image and reputation.

Watch that avatar. Foley says that companies should remind their workers of the risks involved with representing themselves online. For example, if you create an avatar to go to a place in Second Life that would merit an NC-17 movie rating, you might consider making your online identity appear nothing like your real identity.

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