Managing Online Reputation: Security and Privacy

Every year on the 28th day of January the world celebrates Data Privacy Day which aims at creating awareness of privacy and data protection issues among consumers, organizations as well as government officials.

Many of us know where to draw a line between our personal and professional life but that is not easy to do when we go online. Data – both personal and professional is collected by many websites while we surf them. Data is captured by businesses running the websites when one set’s up an online account, makes a purchase online, registers for a contest or takes part in an online survey, downloads software or even surf’s the web. Personal details may be also online because one may have added their own information in resumes, chats, pages on social sites like Facebook, or comments in discussion groups or on Twitter.

So why should one care about the information that is online? The answer is cybercrime. Cyber thieves hunt for data to sell it or use it to tarnish reputation, harass, steal an identity, damage a credit record or even jeopardize the physical safety of an individual. These thieves push online scams, such as phishing which collects confidential information over fake sites or emails. Criminals also offer gifts, credit repair solutions, virus protection offers or other enticements in exchange for personal data or money.

Finding What Is Online
Here are some way’s to find out what information is available on the public domain:

  • Go to a search engine like Google, Bing or Yahoo and begin by typing your first and last name to see in which websites are you mentioned and in what context. To get more precise results, put quotation marks around your name. This tells the search engine to read your name as a phrase and not as two or more unrelated words that just happen to appear in the text.
  • If you have ever used a different name or used your middle name or initial, if you use a nickname, or if your name is frequently misspelled, search all variations to make sure you don’t miss anything important.
  • Use similar techniques to search for your telephone numbers, home address, email addresses and personal website domain names.
  • Check online phone directories, genealogy sites, alumni sites, the websites of organizations to which you belong or donate time or money and other sites that compile personal, professional, or contact information about people.
  • If any of your friends, family members, or coworkers have blogs or personal webpages on social networking sites, check them out to see if they are writing about you or posting pictures of you.
  • Use the feature of Google Alerts that automatically notifies you of any new mention of your name or other personal information over email.

Protection Measures
These tips can help you manage and protect your online reputation:

  • A basic strategy to avoid identity theft and online fraud is to keep your personal information private when you go online. Be equally careful about sharing information offline and be sure you know how organizations will use your information before you give it to them.
  • Most social networking and photo-sharing sites allow you to determine who can access and respond to your content. If you’re using a site that doesn’t offer privacy settings, find another site.
  • Don’t mix your public and private lives online. Use different email addresses for different online activities to help keep your public and private lives separate.
  • Choose your photos thoughtfully. Whether you’re a child or an adult, make sure potential colleges or employers can’t search the web and find photos that make you look irresponsible.
  • Watch your language and content. You should always assume that anyone can read anything you’ve written online.
  • If you find information about yourself online that is unflattering, embarrassing, or untrue, contact the website owner or administrator and ask them to remove it. Most sites have policies to deal with such requests.

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