Online Reputation Management Is a Two-Way Street
Survey finds that 14 percent of people believe they have been negatively impacted by the online activities of others.
REDMOND, Washington — Jan. 24, 2012 — For most people, data privacy brings to mind thoughts of identity theft and credit card fraud. But often they are not thinking about how to proactively protect their online identity and reputation.
A person’s interactions online, spanning content they create and share online and content that others post about them are considered part of an online profile. Online profiles and social networks are part of modern life, and an unprecedented amount of personal information is available to anyone who knows how to use a search engine or trawl Facebook.
Such information can reveal our whereabouts, our preferences, our connections with other people — even our spending habits. But do we really want all this information about our personal lives to be just a search away from an employer, a mortgage lender or someone who might have less-than-noble reasons for learning more about us?
Microsoft is marking Data Privacy Day 2012 by releasing new data that reveals how one’s online activities— if not well managed — can have serious consequences for their online reputation. The data also highlights the degree to which people are or are not thinking about what they or others are revealing about them online.
Microsoft commissioned a survey of 5,000 people in the US, Germany, Canada, Ireland and Spain, to learn how actively people manage their online reputation and, importantly, the kinds of negative outcomes they have experienced as a result of personal information being shared online.
Findings include the following:
- 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.
“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.
Microsoft is offering the following tips to help people take control of their online reputation:
- Stay vigilant and conduct your own “reputation report” from time to time.
- Search all variations of your name in Bing and other popular search engines, and evaluate whether the results reflect the reputation you’d like to share with the world: to current or future employers, colleagues, friends and family members.
- Research found that 37 percent of adults rarely or never do this.
- Consider separating your professional and personal profiles.
- When you are job hunting, applying to a school or looking for new insurance or a loan, remember that your online profile can be a determining factor for hiring managers and application reviewers. Be sure to use different email addresses, screen names, referring blogs and websites for each profile, and avoid cross-referencing personal sites.
- 57 percent of adults think about taking steps to keep their work and personal profiles private; however, 17% of people have inadvertently shared information online that was intended to remain private. Most commonly shared are details about one’s personal life (56%) and personal photos (38%).
- Adjust your privacy settings.
- In Internet Explorer 9 or other web browsers, and on social networking sites, personal blogs and other places where you maintain personal data, review and use the privacy settings to help manage who can see your information, how people can search for you, who can comment, and how to block unwanted access.
- According to our research, 49% of adults do not use privacy settings on social networking sites.
- Think before you share.
- Think about what you are posting (particularly personal photos and videos), who you are sharing the information with, and how it will impact your reputation. Talk with friends and family about what you do and do not want shared about you, and ask them to remove anything you don’t want disclosed.
- 14 percent of people have been negatively impacted by the online activities of others. Of those, 21 percent believed it led to being fired from a job, 16 percent being refused health care, 16 percent believed it resulted in being turned down for a job they were applying for, and 15 percent being turned down for a mortgage.
- Be a good digital citizen.
- The web has a long memory. Conduct yourself in a civil manner, showing respect for those with whom you engage.
- Microsoft offers guidance on how to be a better digital citizen in our Digital Citizenship in Action Toolkit.
Microsoft Provides Tips to Help Protect Your Online Image
Microsoft Privacy site