Protecting your identity on social media sites like Facebook and Twitter

July 30, 2012 (CHICAGO)

-Google yourself to understand what is discoverable about yourself. Use different variations on your name and also look at the images and videos that are returned in search results.

-You'll also want to check global search results on Google, which is the right side of the screen, beside the top search result. Otherwise your search results will be set to your own personal search history --I.e. what you've searched for previously, where you are physically located, etc.

-If you find something you don't want found, you will need to contact the person who posted it to take it down. You could also contact the owner of the web page to see if they will remove it. Finally, your last resort is contacting the search engine directly--but that rarely works.

-Stay on top of your search results by creating a google news alert for your name. This means you will be emailed every time someone mentions your name on a website that is indexed by Google.

- It's important to note that Facebook is a semi-closed social network--this means that the majority of content is not being captured by a search engine like Google. Thus, you should set up separate notifications from Facebook to be alerted when someone tags you in a comment, photo or video on Facebook.

- To avoid being tagged in comments, photos or videos on Facebook without your permission, you need to adjust this setting. Go to and check the box that says you must approve all tags before they appear on your profile.

When a friend tags you, you'll receive a notification and can decide whether or not to approve it. If you decline it, it will not appear on your profile and no one can see it.

- As good practice, you should be cautious in accepting friends on Facebook. If you don't know the person in real life, consider putting them on a limited view of your profile. This means they can only see certain elements of your profile, perhaps not all of your photos, for example. Learn more about this at

- Also be cautious in sharing your physical whereabouts. Instagram is a very popular social network that lets you share photos and gives you the option to share the specific location where the photo was taken, down to the street address. If you're concerned about people being tracked online, do not share your location.

- There are also location-based social networks, Four Square being the most popular one. People "check in" to physical locations or events like conferences and festivals using Four Square. The point is to show your friends where you are --almost like bragging--and also to find out if you know anyone else at the event.

-Four Square does have security options that let you share your whereabouts with a small, private group of people of your choosing. One young woman who is a realtor in Chicago actually uses Four Square to check in everywhere she goes, thus her friends and family can keep track of her whereabouts.

-In general, you should be very cautious abort what information you're sharing about your physical whereabouts -- particularly if you're a woman or living alone.

- Finally let's say there is negative information about you out there and it turns up at the top of your search results. You tried getting it removed but had no luck.

- You may need to hire an SEO consultant, someone who specializes in search engine optimization. This person will have to use a variety of techniques to repair what we call your "online reputation."

- This process can be expensive, which is why it's a good idea to be pro-active and prevent negative or questionable content from being shared about you. And should anything be posted, your google news alert and Facebook notifications will allow you to respond quickly.

To learn more about protecting and managing your reputation online, Tracy will be leading a seminar at the Aon Center with Crain's Chicago Business on Thursday, August 16. For details and to register, visit

Protecting Your Personal Online Reputation
Aon Center with Crain's Chicago Business
Aug. 16

Protecting Your Personal Online Reputation-- How to understand, stay on top of and improve your personal search results. We will discuss what people see when they Google you, how Google determines your personal search results and the simple steps you can take to start improving your results. These steps include signing up for Google News alerts for your name, claim your LinkedIn profile, consider creating a website, upload photos of yourself, consider starting a blog or tweeting to create more positive content--finally consider working with a SEO consultant if you have negative search results for your name or another person with your name is showing up in search results.

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