Do you own your online presence?

SocialMediaIS.jpgIn his alternative Christmas message, whistle-blower Edward Snowden warned that ‘A child born today will grow up with no conception of privacy at all’.1  This statement may appear rather extreme, but it does serve as a reminder that we should take care not to become complacent with our personal data.  Snowden goes on to explain that, ‘privacy is what allows us to determine who we are and who we want to be’.1  Each time we post a comment or image online, we are eroding our privacy and revealing more about ourselves – but is the image we present how we really want to be seen?

As we increasingly live out our social and professional lives online, we are creating a digital footprint that will linger long into our futures.  Conversations and photographs intended for the moment may become distorted when looked at through a retrospective lens.  We all need to regularly review the information about us that is publicly available and consider what our online presence may say about us, both now and in the future.

Tuesday 28 January is Data Privacy Day, an annual event intended as ‘an effort to empower and educate people to protect their privacy, control their digital footprint, and make the protection of privacy and data a great priority in their lives’.2  It is essential that we are aware of the importance of protecting our own personal data and respecting the privacy and personal data of others.  At Queen’s we have various policies, including Social Media policies and the Computer Resources – Acceptable Use Policy, aimed at encouraging the responsible use of technology, that students and staff are required to abide by.

So, how can you take control of your online presence?  Here are some tips for protecting your data privacy:

  1. Public or private? Make sure you use the safety and security settings on online services and social media sites and find out how sites use your data.  See our earlier blog on Facebook privacy settings or follow the advice provided at staysafeonline.org  http://staysafeonline.org/data-privacy-day/check-your-privacy-settings/
  2. Friend or stranger? Be cautious about who you accept as ‘friends’ on social media sites or exchange information with.  Don’t post information like your phone number, address, date of birth or travel plans online!
  3. Would you want a potential employer to see this? Always keep your reputation in mind when posting information, images or videos on the Internet.  If you wouldn’t want it to go ‘viral’, don’t put it online.  Remember, there is no such thing as an entirely private social media site!
  4. Are you protected?  Make sure you use a strong password that includes a mixture of letters, numbers and symbols and use a unique password for each account.   Don’t forget to password protect your mobile devices too!
  5. Do you connect with respect?  Only post comments or share images of others if you are sure that they will be comfortable with the content.  Never reveal personal information about others without their permission!  If someone posts something online that causes you offence or embarrassment, a polite request for removal should usually suffice.  If not, report the post using the links provided on the site.

For more advice on using social media, check out our Social Media Guides at http://go.qub.ac.uk/socialmedia

1http://www.channel4.com/info/press/news/edward-snowden-delivers-channel-4s-alternative-christmas-message

2https://www.staysafeonline.org/data-privacy-day/about

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