Online Reputation Management Blog

Is Employer Access to Facebook and Twitter an Invasion of Privacy?

It’s common knowledge that colleges, employers and potential dates are checking you out on Facebook and Twitter.  In response, you’ve probably taken every opportunity to batten down the hatches from unwanted social media snooping by parents, coworkers, employers and your ex, painstakingly reading the fine print each time Facebook makes a privacy update.  Last week, MSNBC reported that some colleges and employers, frustrated that they can no longer use public profiles on these sites to “stalk” their applicants, are actually requesting full access — even private pages — on social media sites so they can monitor every status update, tweet and embarrassing picture you post.

One employer, Maryland state’s Department of Corrections, doesn’t request the passwords anymore (the ACLU put a stop to that), but asks that the applicant log in to Facebook during the interview and click through the site while the interviewer watches.  This is voluntary, but applicants are submitting to it for fear that not doing so would cost them the job.

Another group facing restrictions are student-athletes.  Many colleges, like the University of North Carolina, request that a designated coach/administrator on each sports team has access to the athletes’ social networking page.

The reasoning behind these two examples is probably understandable: the employer doesn’t want to risk hiring anyone with gang affiliations, and the school wants to ensure their athletes are adhering to the student-athlete conduct code.  But where is the line drawn when it comes to requesting access to an private and personal information?  Is email access far behind?  Or, as one attorney in the MSNBC article notes, will employers ask to “bug” our homes?

According to the article, Maryland has begun proposing laws prohibiting employers from asking for passwords; Illinois is considering similar legislation.  However, the responsibility ultimately resides within each of us who use social media.  Thanks to our Constitution, we all enjoy free speech.  But we don’t need to say everything that pops into our heads or show pictures of every private moment.  Even when using the highest privacy settings available, it’s important to use social media responsibly.  Unless of course, you don’t mind your boss looking at your honeymoon pictures or girlfriend’s late night status updates…

What do you think?

Is it wrong for employers or prospective employers to request access to your personal social media pages?

Microsoft Releases Online Reputation Management Survey on Data Privacy Day

Every January 28, Microsoft celebrates Data Privacy Day to help the industry, academics, and privacy and data advocates discuss online reputation and privacy issues among customers, organizations and government officials. In conjunction, Microsoft released the results from a survey of 5,000 people in select countries worldwide, including the U.S., to determine how they manage their online reputation.

While the findings are consistent with recent data from other industry sources, it’s nice to see some fresh statistics. Microsoft found that 91 percent of people have done something regarding online reputation management, but only about 44 percent of adults think about the long-term consequences of their online activities. If that statistic is less than half for adults, I am curious to know what that number is like for teenagers; there’s a definite opportunity here to create awareness about the importance of online reputation management among adults and teens alike.

It is more important than ever to monitor your reputation. According to Microsoft, 37 percent of adults rarely or never do this. With free online reputation monitoring tools like Rhino360°, it is easy to listen to what people are saying about you online.

According to the study, 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.

It was interesting to learn that 57 percent of adults think about taking steps to keep their work and personal profiles private, but 49% of adults do not use privacy settings on social networking sites. Why is it so important to manage your privacy online? Because mistakes happen — 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%). Check out our recent post to learn How to Change Your Facebook Privacy Settings.

Facebook Timeline – The Time is Now!

Over the next few weeks, everyone on Facebook is going to “upgrade” to Timeline, a profile update that shares your history and online activity since you first joined Facebook with… just about everyone. When you get Timeline, you will have seven days to preview the content — just enough time to delete your Spring Break pictures before your Mom finds them.

Like that baby book that your parents didn’t quite get around to finishing, you can fill in information from your pre-Facebook years (remember those?) using the new status update box, which is pretty easy to update with those special moments you don’t want to forget (or can’t really remember), like your first date or your 21st birthday party.

If you want to see how your timeline appears to other people, click the gear menu at the top of your timeline, and select “View As.” You can preview how your Timeline appears to a specific person or the public.

To feature something on your Timeline, scroll over the post and click the star to expand it to two columns. Or you can click the pencil to hide, delete or edit a post.

Use the Privacy dropdown to change who can see your posts. You can even select “Only Me” for posts you want to save but don’t want to be visible to others.

For more tips on Facebook privacy, check out our recent post: How to Change Your Facebook Privacy Settings.

If you just can’t wait to share your Yearbook photos with your boss, you can get Timeline right now. Go to the Introducing Timeline page and click “Get Timeline.”

How to Change Your Facebook Privacy Settings

With the introduction of Timelines and Open Graph at Facebook’s recent f8 conference, many people are concerned about the impact of these changes on online privacy. On Facebook, your name and username, profile picture, gender, user ID/account number and networks are visible to anyone.

If you are one of Facebook’s 800 million users, and you are concerned about who can access your personal information online, it takes only a minute to go private.

Follow these 8 steps below to secure your account and take control over your online image.

1. Log into your Facebook account and click on the dropdown arrow next to “Home” on the upper right hand corner. Use the drop down and click on the “Privacy Settings” link.

2. Under “Control Your Default Privacy,” click on the “Custom” link.

3. The screen will show you four options to select:  “Friends of Friends,” “Friends,” “Specific People or Lists” and “Only Me.” You can also hide posts from specific people or lists by typing the name in the blank space provided.

4. Then, scroll down to the “How You Connect” section.  Click on “Edit Settings” and after the popup use the drop down menus on the right side of your screen to select who you want to view this information.

5. Next, be sure to click “Edit Settings” to the right of the “How Tags Work” section.  A popup window will appear and you can adjust the “Maximum Profile Visibility” settings and adjust your default settings to “Off.”

6. Scroll down to the “Apps and Websites” section.  Click the “Edit Settings” link and follow the drop down menus on the right side of your popup to restrict which apps, games and websites you share your information with.

7. Click on the “Limit the Audience for Past Posts” link to protect information you may have shared publicly in the past.

8. Scroll to the top of the “Privacy” settings page  to make sure that your new settings have all been applied.

Tell all your “Friends” how easy it is to change your privacy settings on Facebook and protect your privacy.