Sunday, December 23, 2007

Privacy and Accuracy

Seems like just the time I settle in on a service of choice (for me it is my LinkedIn page), I receive a new request to join another colleague's network, which of course is based on their preference.

BusinessWeek reports an interested trend as more professionals create their online presence using these tools. A growing number of statups are aggregating information from various online sites like FaceBook, MySpace, LinkedIn, Plaxo and others to "track people and their reputations" as well as provide a single source for editing and maintaining their online profiles.

The challenge is around privacy and accuracy. For example, I recently received a request to join a colleagues network on Spock. When I arrived, I found several threads from other profiles I had created online, but also threads for others with my name, but who are clearly not me.

For the record, while these are real facts for others that share my name, they should not be showing up on my page on the Spock site:

  • Senior Project Manager at Northrop Grumman

  • Member of the State of New York Legislature in 1788

  • These can be confirmed by voting on or off one's profile, but the individual must go to the trouble to do this on a regular basis.

    From a workplace perspective, what should be taken into consideration when creating online profiles and how can you protect not only your privacy but also your credibility as those who do not know you may become confused as they are unable to distinguish names and who they belong to?

    SOURCE: Stead, Deborah, ed. (2007, September 24). It Isn't Just YourSpace Anymore. BusinessWeek, 13


    MGJ said...

    A similar thing happened to me. I was marked as associated with Thomson Financial (which I am definately not). I untagged myself. I'm not sure that one can do much more other than try to keep track of the constantly-evolving sites that capture this kind of information.

    It seems that employers (or anyone reviewing the information) will now need to check not only the information itself, but whether or not that person has visited the site, how frequently, and when the last visit was. I don't know if this is possible on all social networks but if you see a lot of activity from a single person, wouldn't it seem that this would be the more credible source? It seems that people will now need to apply the old saying, "don't believe everything you read" and critique the validity of the information.

    On a different subject, I've noticed something new about Facebook recently: a few of my friends are now modifying their Facebook pages from exclusively-social pages to more professional-looking ones. My friends expect employers to check them. Friendster seems to have gone by the wayside (at least among my circle of friends). In fact, when I got my new Macbook last week, Facebook was the one and only social network already pre-set to the bookmark bar in Safari. I thought that was kind of interesting.

    Stephen said...

    Good comments...I believe the prudent thing for employers is to rely on traditional means to verify employment background. Conservative approaches are safer to avoid liabilities.

    On the employee side, you are right that it makes sense for individuals to be aware of the leading provides and ensure these are maintained and accurate.

    Similar to the importance of individuals managing their credit rating, individuals should also manage their "credibility" rating. It may take some time, but in the long run is worth it.

    Good luck with the MacBook. I love mine and believe Apple is on the cutting edge of these emerging technologies.