Defending Your Reputation

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Defending Your Reputation

In a 2010 study by Microsoft, reported in the New York Times,1 75 percent of executive recruiters and human-resource professionals surveyed said they research promising candidates online, using search engines, social networking sites, personal Web sites, blogs, Twitter feeds, and online gaming sites, as well as photo- and video-sharing sites.  Seventy percent of those recruiters revealed that information found online led them to reject a candidate — and there is no shortage of information to be found.

The largest social-networking site, Facebook, boasts 500 million members, who collectively share more than 25 billion pieces of content each month.  For good or for bad, this type of information is not going away and nothing is forgotten.  As an example, the Library of Congress recently announced it will be archiving all public Twitter posts since 2006.

This is the new reality:  Everything we do online is recorded so we can’t escape our own history.  Youthful indiscretions, for example, may never fade, permanently tying people to their pasts, in vivid color and revealing video.

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For example, as the New York Times2 reported, a 25-year-old Pennsylvania high school “teacher in training” posted a photo of herself on her MySpace page in a pirate hat, holding a plastic cup at a party, along with the caption, “Drunken Pirate.”  Less than a week before she was scheduled to graduate, the university refused to issue her a teaching degree because her students could find her photo online and get the impression that she was encouraging drunkenness.  When she sued, citing her First Amendment rights, the court ruled against her.

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This constantly evolving, permanent digital record of our lives means we’ve lost, to a large degree, control of our reputations.  The possibility of second chances may be lost as well.

For those who understand this new reality, discretion can certainly be exercised in what we post.  However, we don’t have control over what others post.  Besides, it is generally too late to delete any embarrassing information that is already posted.

Fortunately, there are several services now available, such as Integrity Defenders and Reputation Defender, that offer to protect individuals’ reputations online.  These services enable their clients to monitor the Web, delete their personal information, and influence what people see when they search for them online.

The services will also contact specific Web sites that contain offending content and ask them to remove the offensive items...

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