Microsoft releases tips to help protect your online image

27 Jan 2012

Ninety-one per cent of internet users say they have done something, at some point, to manage the way others perceive them online, but only 44pc actively think about the long-term consequences their online activities can have on their and others’ online reputations, a survey suggests.

The survey of 5,000 people in the US, Canada, Germany, Spain and Ireland released by Microsoft ahead of European Privacy Day 2012 tomorrow, revealed that a third of respondents said they felt they did not have control of their digital reputation.

Internet users in Germany (49pc) and Ireland (49pc) are most likely to think actively about the consequences of their online activities, the survey showed.

Internet users in Ireland (15pc) also scored lowest, with the US at 16pc, of the country respondents believing they had complete control of their online profile.

Ireland and Germany were the most active countries in taking proactive steps to manage one’s online reputation. Ireland tends towards steps that reduce the amount of information shared (56pc opted not to post specific text, photo or video online; 51pc opted out of sharing information about one’s self on a website).

“Your online reputation is shaped by your interactions in the online world and spans the disparate and varied data about you, whether created and posted by you or others,” said Microsoft’s chief privacy officer Brendon Lynch.   

“This information can have a lasting presence online, and can affect your life in many ways – from maintaining friendships, to helping you keep or land a new job.”

Based on its research, Microsoft is offering tips to help people better manage and protect their online reputation:

Stay vigilant and conduct your own “reputation report” from time to time.

o  Search all variations of your name in search engines, and evaluate if the results reflect the reputation you’d like to share with the world. Research found that 37pc of adults rarely or never do this.

Consider separating your professional and personal profiles.

o  When you are job hunting, applying to a school or looking for new insurance or a loan, remember that your online profile can be a determining factor for hiring managers and application reviewers. Be sure to use different email addresses, screen names, referring blogs and websites for each profile, and avoid cross-referencing personal sites.

o Some 57pc of adults think about taking steps to keep their work and personal profiles private; however, 17pc of people have inadvertently shared information online that was intended to remain private. Most commonly shared are details about one’s personal life (56pc) and personal photos (38pc). 

Adjust your privacy settings.

o  In web browsers, and on social networking sites, personal blogs and other places where you maintain personal data, review and use the privacy settings to help manage who can see your information, how people can search for you, who can comment, and how to block unwanted access. According to Microsoft’s research, 49pc of adults do not use privacy settings on social networking sites.

Think before you share.

o  Think about what you are posting, who you are sharing the information with, and how it will impact your reputation. Talk with friends and family about what you do and do not want shared about you, and ask them to remove anything you don’t want disclosed.

o  Fourteen per cent of people have been negatively impacted by the online activities of friends or family. Of those, 21pc believed it led to being fired from a job, 16pc being refused health care, 16pc believed it resulted in being turned down for a job they were applying for, and 15pc being turned down for a mortgage.