Against Me! The Internet

In the last few weeks I’ve heard radio commercials for numerous “reputation management and privacy” companies. A man tells us in brief how fine and casual his work and social lives are. Then, the tense, spooky music. The man tells us how, suddenly, his friends ignore him on the street and that big promotion was given to someone else. He frets, Has the whole world turned against me? No, says ReputationDefender. Not the whole world. It’s the Internet!

You see, our friend has been so busy on Facebook, Twitter, and his other social networks that he forgot to manage the privacy settings. Now his public profile is revealing such unsavory photos and regrettable tweets that his social and professional lives are crumbling to ruin.

Can this type of thing really happen? Sure it can. It does happen. Companies like ReputationDefender exist to serve real concerns and capitalize on people willing to spend money to cleanse and protect their Internet profiles.

Do people really need to spend 100 dollars every year for this peace of mind? Well, no. They don’t. Every social network site allows some level of personalized privacy. Users simply don’t think about things like privacy when opening that free account. In time, every tweet, photo, status update, and random comment is available for the world to see and read. A potential employer can Google our friend’s name and get all she needs to know about him. Things were going so great with Brenda. Now she won’t return my calls. I just can’t understand it. D’oh!

Every information professional should be familiar with the ins and outs of Internet privacy. Librarians should be hep to Facebook and Twitter, the top two social networking sites, and how to manipulate their privacy settings. When librarians have this basic ability, they can share with Web-active patrons of all ages and help alleviate the anxiety and stigma that always follow social networking.

Schedule a program in your library, making available as many computers as possible. Begin the class by having users log out of any social network to which they belong. Then have them Google their names and analyze the results. The object of the class is to make search results disappear. Show users the privacy functions of their social network sites and how to personalize them as best they are allowed. Lastly, have them log out and Google their names again.

Neither the world, nor the Internet is against our friend in the radio ad. And, really, ReputationDefender only wants a C note every year. Yet, while the Internet and the library now share space, progressive librarians are looking for ways to make them play nice. Showing users how to protect their public profiles serves this goal and saves everybody money. And in cases like the poor guy in the radio spot, helping one user manage his personal information can be just as important as helping another locate public information.


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About Steven V. Kaszynski
librarian, editor, contributor

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