Online reputation

Reputation defines who will talk to you, what they will do for you, what they will do with you.

It determines whether a bank will lend you money to buy a car or a house, whether you will have a roof over your head as a tenant, whether you can get a job. It affects your insurance coverage for health or car. A modern phenomenon is the online reputation and its entry into the workplace. Online reputation tools are getting more powerful. Background checks are everywhere, and you may not even know that a background check has come back negative, and is excluding you from an opportunity.

Michael Firtek is an expert on online reputation and he says, “Reputation is permanent, cheap and ubiquitous.”

It is permanent because unlike years ago personal “transactions” are being kept forever. Not so long ago people were allowed to forget about others misdeeds because their memories (and old newspapers) fade away over time.

Nowadays, Facebook and other online sources store every bit of information recorded. Every day Facebook adds 50 times the amount of data in the United States Library of Congress’s print collection!

Twitter is another source of online reputation. Did you know that the US Library of Congress is storing every single public tweet, regardless of content?

Some experts believe that Facebook does not actually delete photos from its servers, even if the owner hits the “Delete Photo” button.

It is safest to assume that every bit of online data that you have created is stored in at least one location. Every review, every ATM, every email, tweet, blog etc.

Obviously any blemish on your online reputation will live longer than you!

As Firtek has noted, any positive and negative information about your “online life” is permanent, cheap to store, and is everywhere that can be reached by the Internet.

So beware!! Here are some tips.

How to keep your personal life personal

Firtek says that you need to make your personal and Facebook feeds hard to find.

He suggests that you lock your personal thoughts away from public view and create a separate public persona. This sounds a bit weird, but he is emphasising the need to be protective about your reputation. Let’s face it, not everyone online is your best friend and there are some seriously bad people out there who seem to get their kicks from messing up other people’s lives. So what can you do?

Some Facebook users are renaming their personal profile to a variant of their name that friends will recognise but computers will not. MCHL FRTEK for example, instead of Michael Firtek, and locking this profile to friends only. This is a great idea for email accounts also, because you significantly reduce the amount of spam and other malware if your email does not have a recognisable (to a computer) name.

Others create duplicate accounts, one public, and one private. I know of one IT guru who does this, and he happily gives out his email address to those who he knows will send him junk emails. People like Coles, Woolworths etc. By keeping these emails away from the important stuff he avoids the probability of his personal emails being hacked, and saves himself a lot of time trawling through the junk of the Internet. These precautions are really important, because once your personal email is hacked you have little choice but to change it. This is a drama you have probably not considered; maybe you have assumed your email address is for life.

Likewise don’t assume those apps like SNAPCHAT who
profess to automatically delete entries after the recipient sees them have done so. As Firtek says, your online life is forever; so best to assume that whatever you do
online stays there.

It’s not hard to see a situation where your online reputation is permanently damaged by something stupid you did years before.

There are many examples of this. You will probably know a few. You may remember Justine Sacco, a PR executive who tweeted “Going to Africa, I hope I don’t get AIDS - just kidding.” just as she was getting on a long haul flight. By the time she arrived at her destination and turned her phone back on, she was a worldwide celebrity for all the wrong reasons and her life was destroyed.

Other apps like Tigertext can be set to automatically and permanently delete texts. But treat them all with caution.