Monday, 14 February 2011

Online Reputation - Some initial thoughts

Online reputation and digital identity are areas I am particularly interested in, and given the range of applications that we are now signed up to, and the different connections we are making I am even more keen to keep on top of this. Back in the early days of WWW and search engines, I can remember that it seemed that only ‘‘important’ people could be found on the web - ‘he’s on the Internet - must be famous!’. I can remember searching for my name a few years ago, and the only references I found were relating to a question I had asked in an information discussion group, and a report on the activities of a village group in which I was involved. There is not a lot more to add to that nowadays, except that my presence on Facebook and LinkedIn is announced, and my tweets are listed, something that I find a little disturbing (note to self - can I set privacy so that these do not appear in a Google search?) This unease comes from seeing something I have written reproduced outside of its context; and although this particular content is fairly innocuous my concern is that this might not always be the case. Contextual integrity is so important - you might want to talk to someone in one format but not another, reference Google Buzz example discussed by Danah Boyd (2010). Also, the fact that content is viewable by everyone does not mean that the producer intends it to be taken from context, reproduced, mashed up, used for deep indexing links and generally altered, hence my concern regarding the understanding of Facebook’s ‘everyone’ setting.

Establishing digital identity
The increasing popularity of social media and the embracing of it by the library community means that it is important for me to develop and nurture an online persona for my role at DMU, what ever that might be in the future. I believe it is relevant to all areas of library activity, and one needs to be ‘out there’ and ready to exploit it to its full potential, whether involved in back room technical services, or on the front line communicating with students in their preferred media. For my freelancing work it is important to portray the right skills background and experience, and I know LinkedIn is a resource extensively used in this area. It is useful to maintain a professional and relevant image, and to ensure that should anyone wish to dig deeper, they will find nothing of concern - one’s brand’ must remain intact and record unblemished. It is important to use digital identity to find ways of attracting commissions, and encouraging new business. With this in mind I really need to address the issue of having multiple professional identities in one profile, whilst attempting to demonstrate 100 per cent commitment to each, particularly as many of my fellow freelancers are full-time.

The representative body for my freelance work operates a service whereby all our contact details are registered on their website freely searchable by anyone, so legitimate people can find us, view our specialisms, check whether location is convenient and make immediate contact. I have been uncomfortable with this, but am not sure how to strike a balance between being easy to find and having my details exposed to potential criminals. I have now removed my address but it still comes up in a Google search.

Developing digital identity.
For the Task 1 activities, I joined two Diigo groups relevant to my work, and am finding some useful material from these. I can see that as I begin to contribute my own material, my own profile will be enhanced. The saved search hashtags in Twitter have been useful to explore; I have found some relevant people for the areas of activity I am interested in, am following a prominent author in one of those fields and now find she is following me. I tried #libraries, but found that it is too broad with lots of US material which I am not interested in. It would be helpful to narrow this down in some way to focus on specific topics, but I cannot see a way of doing this. I already have a LinkedIn account, although not very active as yet, I do intend to develop this.

With regards to privacy policies, I really don’t worry perhaps as much as I should when it comes to signing up with individual sites. Much of our personal data is easily retrievable anyway, through Phone Book, the electoral register, and pay for services such as credit rating agencies. As far as I am aware there is nothing terrible about me that I am aware of lurking in anyone’s files or photographs, but what I do find disturbing is how much flexibility and power all the sites have in using our data. I am uncomfortable with the way in which data can be shared between applications and sites, and suddenly no longer be subject to the privacy protection one thought one had. Facebook is a prime example (Opsahl 2010, Butcher 2007 etc.) and I think it is appalling that it can change the policies signed up for as and when it suits to make data more useful and valuable to it.

BOYD, DANAH (2010) Making Sense of Privacy and Publicity. SXSW Austin, Texas
BUTCHER, M. (2007) Eight reasons why Facebook owns your ass. Mbites. Weblog [Online] 2nd Aug. Available from [Accessed 14/02/11]
OPSAHL, K. (2010) Six things you need to know about Facebook connections. Electronic Frontier Foundation. Weblog [Online] 4th May. Available from: [Accessed 14/02/11]
Facebook Privacy Policy

1 comment:

  1. Hi Sharon,

    I think the biggest point to come from your first few paragraphs is the need to monitor your 'brand'. I am not aware of how you could stop twitter posts appearing in a google search. We may have mentioned google alerts as a means to monitor sociol media activity and hence reputation, but i have found that is often way out of date. For an up to date check i'd use social mention search engine or google will also allow you to search for social media in a link on its normal search page. There are paid for options as well in the end - i think added something to diigo recently about that.

    Justy a thing on belatedly plugging holes in possible privacy or safety gaps in realtion to tour online presence. Not sayiong you will be able to close everything off, but there is sometimes a time lag before things stop showing up on searches - Keep checking for things to see how that pans out.

    Thanks for the references on privacy - seems to me that good control of privacy settings and healthy skepticism of 3rd party apps is the best way to carry on with the terms and privacy policies not looking to reassuring and also being mindful of what you actually post online.