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January 28, 2015

Stop, think, connect: safeguarding your online reputation

Before you post your next Lumia selfie on Facebook or tweet something clever, here are some social-media guidelines to help keep your online reputation safe.

We conduct much of our lives online. That means everything from posting vacation photos on Facebook, sharing reviews of products we purchased on retail websites to emailing colleagues and collaborating on work projects via Skype.

Sometimes, we forget that everything we post online is permanent and searchable. (Yes, that maudlin tweet you posted two years ago about breaking up with your girlfriend is still out there.)

So in celebration of international Data Privacy Day–which is today, January 28–let’s go over some guidelines to ensure that your reputation online accurately reflects how you want to be represented.


What you share online stays online

Jacqueline Beauchere, Microsoft’s chief online safety security officer and executive director of the National Cyber Security Alliance, led a talk on online self-expression with youth at the European Commission’s Safer Internet Forum in Brussels a few months ago.

After speaking with teenagers at the event, she said in a recent post on the Microsoft On the Issues blog that online reputation is a combination of what you post about yourself and what your friends and even complete strangers say about you.

“Whether you know it or not, odds are you have an online reputation culled from what you share in the digital world and what others post about you,” Jacqueline said.

“At Microsoft, we encourage individuals of all ages to take charge of their digital reputations by regularly following some important guidance.”

That guidance includes these tips:

Once posted, always posted: Think twice about posting comments, images or videos that you wouldn’t want your employer to see. Share, but don’t over-share!

Be knowledgeable about security and privacy settings. Control who sees what you post by judiciously using social networks’ privacy settings. For example, you may want to limit the people who can see Facebook photos from your cousin’s bachelor’s party to just a close circle of friends.

Keep personal info personal. Don’t make cyber-criminals’ jobs easier by sharing sensitive information such as your address or other personal data.

Correct any inaccuracies. If you see information about yourself that’s wrong or that you don’t want to share online, take the necessary steps to correct it. If someone posts a photo of you on Facebook that you don’t want others to see, untag yourself or ask the original poster to remove the photo altogether.

For more tips on how to nurture the online reputation you want, check out Microsoft’s Safety and Security Center. In addition, the National Cyber Security Alliance has some great suggestions on the safest way to use social networks.

Have you ever posted something online that you wish you could take back? What did you do to correct the situation?