Watch Out for Digital Dirt

When you’re preparing for a job (or internship) search, it’s time to be sure that you don’t have any “digital dirt” that a potential employer may uncover.

Sweep Away Your Digital Dirt

Imagine you’re in a job interview right now. How would you answer this question? “After our interview today, I am going to look you up online. How do you think my impression of you will change after I do this?”

Think about what’s visible in your Facebook profile, MySpace page, your blog, Flickr photos, LinkedIn profile and anywhere else that you’ve posted info about yourself. Check to see if others have tagged you in photos. Even if you’ve made your info “private,” it’s still possible that the information is accessible. (Even if a web page is taken down, you may still get to it through the Way Back Machine if you know when it was accessible.)

A discussion on this topic at PR OpenMic brought several things to consider:

” We google/facebook/myspace everyone we hire, and it’s pretty much standard practice out in the trenches.” — Michael Dolan

“I have, in the past, Googled and Facebooked my students before each new semester begins. The stuff I’ve found. So, I copy the photos and, when classes start, put the photos up on the large screen in class as I call roll. My point to them is, “If I can find it, your potential future internships and employers can find it, too.” Freaks them out, but certainly makes the point. Again, only rarely, but still … the stuff I’ve found… yikes!” — Robert French

“A good point a new PR professional brought up when speaking to one of my classes is blocking your friends list from public view. Who you associate with can be digital dirt sometimes.” — Beth Evans

Let me close with a profound thought by a PR practitioner in Washington, DC :

“Just ask yourself: Would they trust their organization’s reputation to someone who can’t keep his or her own intact?” — Felipe Benitez

Just some food for thought.


4 Responses to “Watch Out for Digital Dirt”

  1. April 10, 2008 at 5:25 am

    This is so important! So many young people do not understand this. They think what they do and say online is private. They don’t realize what they type into a blog or social networking site is searchable on any search engine. It’s like taking a megaphone to the middle of a stadium at a ball game and shouting it so everyone can hear it.

    Great post!

  2. 2 Scott Enk
    May 3, 2008 at 7:01 pm

    To paraphrase Patrick Henry, if this and similar postings of mine be “digital dirt,” make the most of it.

    The rise of employers snooping into your and my lives outside of work poses a grave threat, not only to our privacy, but to freedom of expression and association and other basic rights that define a free society.

    Something is radically wrong when employers can lawfully snoop into your and my private lives and use what they find to refuse to hire, fire, or otherwise penalize us.

    Employers that fret about, for example, off-hours expressive activities of employees and applicants and seek “digital dirt” on them rather than concentrate on on-the-job skills and performance infringe on employees’ and job seekers’ privacy and dignity–and undermine our most basic rights and freedoms.

    *Once one allows any employer to dictate one aspect of one’s private life, where does it stop?*

    My response to nosy, out-of-control employers is this: It stops here. *Now.*

    As National Workrights Institute legal director Jeremy Gruber has noted, employers that delve into our lives outside of work “are making decisions based on information not submitted by the employee or references. It is wholly unrelated to the employment relationship.”

    What’s more, Gruber added, “The idea that when you hire someone, you should be able to look at every aspect of their personal life is completely at odds of how a democratic society should operate. It has huge consequences for freedom in this country, when people are afraid or are changing their behavior because of what a potential future employer might say or do.”

    *Any society where this is so is not a truly free society.*

    Unless it has an actual and significant adverse effect on one’s ability to do a job–such things as vague fears as what “might” happen, obsessions over “image,” or employers’ and/or clients’ possible or actual dislike of or disagreement with one’s nonwork activities don’t count–one’s lawful activities outside of work and working hours are none of any employer’s goldarned frickin’ business.

    We all need state and federal legislation like California’s, which specifically forbids employers from dictating or attempting to dictate employees’ political activity. Better yet, every state and Congress should adopt legislation, as a few states such as North Dakota have, protecting the right of employees and job applicants to engage in lawful off-hours, off-premises activities they choose without fear of employment discrimination. We must also prohibit employers from collecting data about employees’ and job applicants’ lawful activities away from work that have no bearing on one’s ability to do a job.

    It is time to reclaim your and our rights–before they are lost forever, before we are all forced to live at the mercy of out-of-control employers in a nationwide, nightmarish high-tech version of the old company town, Frank Capra’s Pottersville, or Ira Levin’s Stepford, one that controls not only our work tasks but our other actions, our minds, and our souls “24/7.”

    It’s not about the bottom line; it’s about power and control.

    Let’s say to employers: Our skills, attention, and loyalty are yours eight hours a day, 40 hours a week; the rest of our lives belong to us, and to us alone. For not only ourselves but our fellow citizens and future generations, we are taking back our country, our economy, our lives, our privacy, and our rights.

    Scott Enk


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

Subscribe to Public Relations Matters

AddThis Feed Button

%d bloggers like this: