The tech helper: Securing your online reputation (Feature)
By Jay Dougherty Jan 17, 2011, 2:06 GMT
Washington - Type your name into a search engine, and what do you find? Is it good? Bad? Are there links to shady people with your name who might be confused with you? These days, your online reputation matters.
Employers, financial partners, and even friends would almost be remiss if they didn't avail themselves of the opportunity to find out about you by searching for your name online. How can you be sure that what they find won't end up causing you problems? Read on for some tips.
Q: When I type my name into a search engine, some unsavory information about other people with the same name appears. I don't want people to confuse them with me. What can I do?
A: When it comes to removing information about other people who might be mistaken for you, your options are limited. You cannot, after all, approach websites and ask that pages containing information about others be altered or deleted because those pages might reflect badly on you. You can, however, create your own web presence - through a home page or blog, for example - so that the information you want to be known about you is available.
Blogs tend to get indexed particularly well, so look at setting up a WordPress or Blogger blog. Or create your own site and post your professional credentials. That way, at least, you'll have a fighting chance of appearing on the list of search results when someone types your name into Google or another search engine.
Q: Some information about me appears on the internet, and I wish it didn't. How can I get it removed?
A: If the information is located on sites you have some control over - including social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter - exercise the control and either shut down public access to the sites or delete the accounts altogether.
For Facebook, log into your page, click Account in the upper right-hand corner, and then click Privacy Settings. Choose the ones that are most appropriate. For Twitter, you can delete particular posts - or followers - by looking through them one-by-one and clicking Delete next to the post or follower. You can delete your Twitter account altogether by logging in, clicking Settings in the upper right-hand corner, and then clicking the 'Deactivate my account' link at the bottom of the Settings page.
For information on sites you do not control, contact the webmaster of the site. You should find contact information on most sites - often listed at the bottom. You may be pleasantly surprised at how willing site administrators are to remove unflattering or simply unwanted information about you. It's not in their interest to have you complaining.
If all else fails, you can enlist the help of companies that specialise in 'cleansing' the internet of unwanted information about you. ReputationDefender (http://www.reputationdefender.com) is a high profile representative of a growing number of companies specialising in this type of service.
Q: I have a lot of personal information on my smartphone, and I worry about what would happen if it fell into the wrong hands. What can I do to secure it?
A: You're right to be concerned. Smartphones today are our most vulnerable information technology devices, since we carry them everywhere, and they're typically unsecured even with a password. Increasingly, too, you can use smartphone apps to tap into your bank account, your online social networking sites, and much more. If someone were to steal or use your smartphone, you could be paying the price for years to come.
So rule number one is to password-protect your smartphone. Virtually every smartphone comes with the ability to set a password so that, once the device goes into sleep mode or standby, a password is required to regain access to its functions. Yes, setting a password means you'll have to enter it each time you want to use your phone. But not setting up a password could mean major headaches if your phone were to be stolen.
Passwords, though, can be broken, so you need to look beyond them and think carefully about the apps you install on your smartphone. Avoid installing any app that would give a user access to your Twitter, Facebook, or other social networking site. Imagine the damage that could be done by a malicious user posing as you and posting offensive messages to your social networking accounts.
Also, do not set up any app that can access your bank or other financial accounts, and even be careful about your list of contacts, securing them if possible. Finally, but not necessarily last, if your smartphone is stolen, call your carrier and cancel all services and plans immediately so that the phone cannot be used.
--- Have a tech question? Send it to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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