A Rant: Privacy and the Internet

It’s that time of year again. People are applying for jobs having received their degrees and they are ‘scrubbing’ or ‘sanitizing’ their social media presence for fear that hiring managers will see pictures of them doing keg stands, drugs, or just generally being a little less than responsible on the internet. This concern is valid. HR departments have been known to use employees, interns, and their own accounts to dig up ‘dirt’ on people’s Facebook and Twitter accounts, to see if the individual presented on the resume and at the interview matches the personality on the internet. As a result, I have seen numerous friends and colleagues try and game the system by changing their last name to their middle name (or something else all-together) on Facebook and other sites.

What we need to remember, is that this is a placebo solution. Changing your name doesn’t change what posted. It simply makes it more obvious you are trying to hide something. Aaron Irizarry (@aaroni) posted on Facebook this week:

Screen Shot 2013-06-12 at 9.30.01 AM

This is the same week that the NSA Scandal became public and we are reminded how easy it is to capture data shared across digital devices. In short, nothing can be taken off the internet. Nothing (mostly) can be hidden from potential employers.

Do you really think changing your last name is a deterrent from employers who want to research potential hires? Do you think they don’t have your middle name on file or can’t access it with a fair degree of certainty? How does that change the existing connections or the content already posted online?

I’m not saying don’t change your name for a degree of privacy. But if you are concerned about incriminating posts being seen, why not change your privacy settings? Go through the 1000+ connections and choose who do you want to actually share with? Even make the adult decision to not post the pictures you could be embarrassed by.

This is a rant. I’m not hiding that. As Aaron pointed out, the internet is forever, including this post. I don’t hide who I am on the internet, but I do try to filter myself. I realize the audience is broader than I can imagine. That once things are said they cannot be taken back. The DELETE key is overused and seen as an UNDO or mulligan. But once something is posted it is out there – in writing, on a server, a harddrive, and on someone’s screen.

So to those changing your profile name in the search of a job. Remember the internet is permanent. These tricks to veil your identity are not new. And whatever you are trying to hide will be discovered. Instead, be aware of what you post, who you share with, and decide if it needs to be posted at all in the first place.

</rant>

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