Big brother is watching you. Yes, you, Mr ThunderThighs

'private' sign

How private is your data?

OK, we all do it. Spend hours on Facebook and other social media sites. Hours that could be spent doing more useful things like mastering tap dancing or basic Samoan. And it’s pretty inevitable, given the patterns of student life, that some of these hours involve Facebook usage of a somewhat unguarded nature. It’s amazing what pictures some people will post after a night on the beer. Fair enough. You’re only young once.

But equally true is the fact that you’ll need to earn a living too and part of the long journey towards jobhood involves your future employer deciding if you’re a good candidate for their organisation. So put yourself in their position. Wouldn’t you be tempted to run a search on Facebook for you, just in case? Human nature being a constant, many do – however unfair you think this is.

A recent survey by Microsoft of 5,000 people in five countries, including Ireland, found that only about half had thought about the implications of their digital profile on their futures. And only 15 per cent of the Irish respondents felt that they had full control of their online profile. This makes sense because your profile is constructed both by what you say and what others say about you. And the resulting rich mix of data can hang around as long as spent uranium but, unlike nuclear waste, is the precise opposite of being buried deep underground.

There are practical ways you can manage your profile though:

  • conducting a regular ‘Reputation Report’ by putting your name into search engines
  • separating your personal and professional profiles
  • adjusting your privacy settings and
  • thinking hard about what to share and with whom.

But not all employers will gate-crash your personal life. For example, KPMG has announced (on its ‘KPMG Careers Ireland’ Facebook page) that it will not view personal profiles on Facebook and it will not assess candidates or make recruitment decisions based upon online representations on Facebook.

I think this is a positive move but, until this behaviour becomes the norm, think carefully about the impression you give potential employers on Facebook. And that goes for you too, Ms Fluffy Bunny.

See the results of the Microsoft survey.

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