What is your (and your Children’s) Online Legacy? (What You Post May Follow You)

29 12 2010

When is the last time you Googled yourself?  Or your children?  Do you know what information, posts and references are out there in the digital world that references you and/or your children?

I recently learned that even after you remove some information from a web page, it still shows up in a Google search!  That can include photos, videos, comments, etc.

This has far-reaching implications for us as individuals, parents, employees, job seekers, potential or existing politicians, etc.

We have a lot of, but not complete control, of our own digital legacy based on what we post. However, we cannot control all that others post about us. Facebook does allow us to remove a photo tag, but what about other information that others share about us, whether it be positive or negative?

Our children are using Facebook, MySpace, and other social networking sites, posting all kinds of comments, photos and videos.  What is going to be their digital legacy?  Think about the politician who smoked marijuana when they were 19 years old, or participated in a sit-in or rally, and how that legacy follows them into adulthood.  Now, consider what information our children are sharing that will be forever lasting in the digital world ten, twenty or more years later when they’re adults.

Do you know that companies are now hiring services to follow their employees?  Is it ethical?  I can’t answer that as it depends on why they’re following, and how they’re using the information.  Companies are also searching on potential candidates – on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, or just using Google search, before they hire, or even interview a prospect.

There is a whole new industry called “Reputation Management” – companies that monitor your digital footprint, and try to clean up any mis-information, or worse about you.

Whether you are currently working, or currently job seeking, think about what information you want your current or prospective employer to know about you.  Consider the language you use when you post.  Consider the political, religious, or other opinions that you may think are completely harmless or unoffensive to someone else.  What you think is neutral and appropriate for the world to know may offend someone who has influence over your future.  Is it fair?  Is it ethical?  In most cases, most likely not.  But, it is the reality that we are judged by what others know or perceive about us.  So, how much ammunition do you want to give them?

Do a Google search for yourself, and for your children.  Before you post the “F” word, or share a political or religious belief, think about who might read it and how they might react.  Not only your FB Friends or your LinkedIn connections will have access to it.  And, even when you remove it, the imprint remains.

Here is another blog post that looks at this issue from the employer’s perspective:

“Is Googling Candidates and Using Social Media During the Hiring Process Unethical?” via CareerCurve

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2 responses

29 12 2010
Jen Turi

Great post Stuart and SO important. As you know, this is a topic very near and dear to my heart! Thanks for raising awareness.

29 12 2010
LKitsch

Privacy, or the lack thereof, is going to be the civil liberties issue of the internet age. I recently had a couple of experiences that were actually positive (one regarding a targeted email ad, the other that stopped a fraudulent use of my credit card), but which illustrated to me how much of my information was available to marketers, and probably to others. Not only information about me, but about my tastes, buying preferences, affiliations, etc. Something to keep an eye on. LARRY KAPLAN

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