The information you share online – that is to say, your digital footprint – can have significant and often permanent impact on your reputation. Just ask POTUS. Too few individuals pause to consider the potential ramifications of a casually posted Tweet or Facebook comment.
After all, it’s just your friends and family looking, right?
Who else is looking?
Perhaps a better question to ask would be “who isn’t looking?”
Employers, opposing legal counsel, business competitors, and countless others may have an interest in monitoring your online activities.
In many cases, a single “slip up” is all it takes to give these parties the edge they need to discredit your good name. It’s not all about employers catching their employees behaving badly. Indeed, these concepts are true even if you’re the one doing the employing. Business owners will find themselves in hot water if discovered posting or sharing potentially discriminatory information. Employees should never be insulted or otherwise disparaged online.
Maintaining Your Privacy & Reputation Online
Legal issues with your digital footprint can potentially be avoided by keeping in mind this smart rule of thumb: when online, act as though you were in public – because, essentially, you are.
In many cases you may feel anonymous when posting online. For example, you may participate in a discussion forum or have a Twitter account where you don’t use your real name. However, the reality is that in almost all situations this information can (and often will) be traced back to you. Operate under the assumption that this is always the case.
It’s Not Just Social Media
Did you know that many – perhaps most – apps on your smart phone or computer are, in some fashion or another, tracking what you do? Now your TV is watching you. On February 6, it was announced that some TVs are in on the covert surveillance. Vizio has agreed to pay $2.2 million for collecting viewing habits and selling the information to third parties. In some cases, apps with GPS functionality may even be tracking where you are. The things you post and the apps you use could be actively used against you in a legal situation. Far too many uninformed technology users have turned to the internet “just to vent” about their legal proceedings (e.g., a divorce or custody battle), which later resulted in a loss.
As a whole, social media and the Internet are wonderful tools which have given us the opportunity to learn, share, and connect with one another on a scale never seen before by humanity. However, it’s best to think of these things as a double-edged sword and to proceed with caution, deliberation, and an understanding of how these new technologies can impact our real-world lives.
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