How Does Privacy Impact Reputation?

Nov 12, 2013 6:25am

Leslie Hobbs, 

When we think of privacy, it’s typically drawing the curtains tight against prying eyes. Not posting a highly personal update on Facebook. Avoiding the great-aunt who asks invasive questions. 

But the concept of privacy is larger than these brief moments in time – chiefly, sharing your personal data can very much color your reputation, especially online. In fact, the two often go hand-in-hand so take a judicious approach to revealing your personal details.


Context is queen. If content is king, context is queen. Perhaps you tweet something sarcastic. Poke fun at a neighbor on Facebook. Write a joking blog post. Social media often feels ephemeral – light, airy, something that dissipates right away. But too often, we forget that once it’s out there, it’s out there for good. A comment we thought was funny may be viewed from a different lens in the future, current context forgotten. As a result, we can look mean-spirited or petty to newcomers visiting our online conversations. The lesson? Carefully shape what you contribute online – think how it will look six months to five years down the road.

Everyone’s looking. People joke about “Google stalking” for a reason – everyone does it. Whether you’re a landlord evaluating a prospective renter, a romantic interest learning more about a blind date, or a hiring manager looking at a candidate, search engines are the first stop in getting to know people. In fact, about 70 percent of people only check out the first four results in a search string about you. That’s a tiny window of opportunity – but can be managed through a strategic and limited release of personal information. Think professionally-oriented social media accounts, a LinkedIn profile, even a personal website that focuses on work accomplishments, experience and capabilities.

Knowledge is power online.  Have you ever searched for your name online? Gone through random Facebook posts from years ago? Looked for images that come up of you? These pieces of information come together to form a solid impression of you. If you don’t like what you see, take action. Lock down your social media privacy settings and remove old posts that may touch sensitive topics (but remember nothing is failsafe – if you never want to see it out there, don’t ever put it out there). Untag yourself in photos. 

What are your tips for sharing information about yourself authentically and positively? Tweet us at @DataPrivacyDay

This blog is an installment in the Data Privacy Blog Series, leading up to Data Privacy Day on January 28, 2014. Read more blogs related to respecting privacy, safeguarding data and enabling trust here.