Business Administration Education Guide

Monday, April 23, 2007

Online Persona What You Should Know

Do you know who is reading & looking at you online?

Think before you post




What you say and show on websites such as My Space, Live Journal & even Tribe doesn't always stay there. Many employees and high school students across the country are learning this lesson the hard way with very unfortunate consequences. Teachers, school administrators and hiring managers are going online snooping postings of current and potential students and employees. The trend is growing rampant and has produced life struggling results such as detention, being denied college admission, and potential new hires not getting that much needed 1st step on the career ladder job.

While all of it is probably in fun and humor, your teachers, the college admissions officers and your parents may not be amused by the online photo of you giving a one fingered salute to survey questions regarding something they gave you. A lot of people write their blog and or journal entries as if they were behind closed doors and only they're friends will bother to look at it. However, unless you make the entries Private on Friends Only, the whole world can read what you post. People are leaving a trail of very personal information in cyberspace, and all it takes is a quick online search of their name for someone to gain access to revealing personal information.

I recently read an article that suggested everyone should Google themselves every once in a while to see what the results are. I was inquisitively amused and gave it try. I was stunned to see that my name had brought up two results at the top of the list; both former employers. While both pages were purely work related, I never thought that anything would ever come up. I than put in my online screen name that I use regularly and an entire Google page came up with all the places I'm registered including items I had posted for sale. GOINK! This should prove how easy it is to find someone if you know the name.

Nii Ahene who is a graduate of the University of California, began a Web site called Bruinpied to warn, that people they'd least expect may be monitoring their web activities. Ahene began the Web site after his friend, a math major at UCLA (after whom the site is named) struggled to land a job interview. When he googled his friend's name, an article the friend had written, "How to Lie Your Way to the Top," came up as number one in the search results.

Nii Ahene - "A lot of students don't think about the consequences of their online activities. This site is geared to shed more light on this issue."


Censorship or protection for their own good?

  • Officials at Pope John XXIII High School in Sparta, New Jersey, have warned students they will face suspension if caught using sites such as Xanga, Live Journal, and My Space, explaining that the rule is a way to protect teens from online predators.
  • Chicago area high schools Libertyville and Vernon Hills require students to sign an agreement acknowledging that any "illegal or inappropriate behavior" posted online could be punishable by the school.

Alex Koroknay-Palicz, executive director of the National Youth Rights Association, says that when schools punish students for such actions, they are infringing on the student's rights. The association has been consulting a lawyer to determine the legality of this new rule.

If an adult were to post a photo of someone smoking a joint on one of these sites, police could not arrest that person, Koroknay-Palicz says. However, [if] a school sees that on a student's site, that's all they need. My concern is that schools are writing their own rulebooks and not really following guarantees of due process and Constitutional protection." Furthermore, he adds, what students do on their own time shouldn't be the school's concern, but that of parents or, in serious cases, law enforcement officials.

Last year, New Jersey school district agreed to pay $117,500 in settlement to a high school student who had created a website on his personal computer that allowed other students to post comment in a guest book regarding the school. The school's defense was that the student had posted anti-Semetic comments and caused a potential danger to students, but the website creating student denied these accusations. A federal judge ruled that the discipline ordered by the Oceanport school officials violated ninth-grader Ryan Dwyer's free speech rights.

Even though the student won the case and proved he had a right to free speech you have to wonder how many college administrators are going to be interested in granting admission to a student who

1) May or may not have made anti-Semetic comments
2) Sued his school and won a large settlement.



Many schools are putting parents on notice, sending them fliers and holding seminars to warn them about how students may misuse social networking Web sites.

A 14 year old high school freshman in Littleton, Colorado said I think that practice is unfair because I have a right to have a My Space, and I don't think the school should be able to meddle with what goes on outside of school.

In truth, it is not and should not be the school responsibility to monitor what the students are doing. Rather it is the parent's reasonability. Sadly, the computer has become the new electronic babysitter so that parents do not need to watch their kids. Too many parents assume that since it is all online, nothing bad can happen.

However internet crime has been one of the fastest growing criminal activities in America. So much so, that police agencies are rapidly creating departments specifically targeting the crimes. Internet Crime Complaint Center was established to serve as a means to receive Internet related criminal complaints.


Your life on display

An article from New York Magazine told of an increasing trend among employers to surf the web for prospective employees virtual identities as part of the job application process. By involving yourself in social networking websites such as Friendster and Facebook, prospective job candidates are unwittingly giving potential employers an open window into their personal and private lives. Through these websites, employers are able to search a job candidate's personal profiles, pictures, comments and blog postings.

One issue I have seen or heard of several times is the misguided belief that employers do not have a right to snoop into an employee's files and online activity...at work. I can not stress enough that this is wrong and the company has every right to snoop into your WORK computer station. The company owns the computer, the network and the email servers and the company has a reasonable expectation that you are working and not goofing off using their equipment. If you plan to use the computer for personal reasons, use it wisely and understand and accept that the company could and does have a right to see what you're doing on their computer.

Pablo Malavenda, is an associate dean of students at Purdue University and speaks frequently at national conferences about the dangers of Facebook. Then they're shocked and frustrated that people are stopping to read it because they put it there for their friends, Malavenda says. It's there and it's public - if you don't want anyone else reading it, don't put it out there.

Pablo Malavenda says his office does not conduct random searches of students Web pages, but does say that the information found on Facebook has been helpful with disciplinary cases that are brought to his attention. Students are implicating themselves through pictures and comments they make, Malavenda says.

Managing your online persona:

Who will read it?. Treat everything you post as if it were on the front page of the New York & Los Angeles Times, this includes photos. In addition, even postings you remove / delete may be viewable by savvy Internet users. One of the Google results that came up for my name was for a former employer I had worked for. I went to the website directly and the page had indeed been changed. However the Google result page still produced the page listing me as the Manager.

Tip: Don't add a picture of yourself getting drunk especially if your underage.

Use online screen names. Do not use your real name and don't your actual zip code. Even though you use a screen name and different zip code, your identity and location can be revealed through your friend's links.

Tip: Use a zip code that is a minimum of 10 miles away from your actual zip code.

Privacy Settings. Almost all social networking sites have some kind of privacy setting.

In My Space you can choose to let viewers see what groups you belong to or hide them. My Space: Who Can View My Full Profile - you can choose My Friends Only or Public. Lastly, you can also request that anyone who wants to Friend you must your email address or last name. However, any college administrator and employer is going to have this information.

Live Journal (LJ) gives their users options such as making all postings Friends Only.

Almost all social networking sites allow the user to set privacy settings. If your concerned with content, that should be the first step in creating a online profile. Than again, don't post anything you don't want the entire world to read.

Tip: A Friend can easily copy your post and display it in theirs with no privacy settings for whole world to read. Post with caution.

Don't give away too much personal information. We all know (or should know) not to post the obvious such as contact information. However, don't post / reveal what your admission application college plan is such the college essays. If it's good; anther college applicant could very well copy it and send it in before yours and eliminate the competition.

Tip: Use online social networking sites for ideas and feedback on subjects your considering but don't give away the finished product.

Use the internet as a business tool. Just as you shouldn't give away too much information for college, don't post your business ideas or project details for a competitor to steal.

Appropriate e-mail address. I was working as a Contract Help Desk Representative when one day a Sales Representative had to travel (1st time / last minute) to anther state. He gave me the personal email address he wanted all of his work email to be forwarded to. I refused. The email address he gave me was totally inappropriate and I didn't want him replying to clients with it. I don't quite remember the email address but it was something to the tune of bigdaddyplayer.

Tip: Have 1 email address for business / college and one for personal use.

Google your name. If something questionable surfaces, contact the site and ask to have the item removed.

Web Presence Advantage. Use online social networking sites to your advantage, not disadvantage. If you want to gripe about your stupid boss or your illiterate instructor create a completely different profile with a screen name that can not be easily guessed by employers or school faculty.

Tip: Use My Space, Live Journal and other social networking sites to market yourself, including recent awards you've won and your academic interests.

Employers have always been interested in certain aspects of their employees personal lives but it used to be much harder for them to find that information. Now, it's much easier to check someone out online if they have profiles on places such as My Space. In addition, checking someone out online costs nothing compared to background checks.

So don't be too surprised if at the next job interview your asked So, how long you have liked taking long quiet strolls on the beach, been obsessed with the music of Nine Inch Nails, and been collecting fairy backgrounds?

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