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This post is part of Kirkwood Libraries’ celebration of Choose Privacy Week. To find out about about our privacy contest, please see this post.

Have you Googled yourself lately? If you haven’t, I think you will be surprised what all turns up online. Now, I know this will come as a shock to some people (at least judging by their actions), but it’s not ONLY your friends who see what you can post online, it’s future potential employers, colleagues, future in-laws, your mother, your grandmother, etc. Privacy settings can help, but you really need to be deliberate about creating an online identity. Your best bet is to not put anything online anywhere that you wouldn’t put on the back of a postcard. For instance without logging in or doing anything see how much of the information I’ve posted to my Trundlebed Tales Facebook page you can see.

https://www.facebook.com/TrundlebedTales

Now try it for yourself by searching for “your name Facebook” without being logged in to it (for example if your name is Archie Leach you’d search for Archie Leach Facebook). Then click on the link.

In fact, despite the push from big corporations to get people to put everything online in one spot that actually isn’t the best idea for privacy. In a world where potential employers not only look at your Facebook page, but sometimes ask for your password to it before they hire you (which so far at least is perfectly legal), I would suggest you to create two online identities, one with your formal business name and one with no direct connections to it that you can use for non-professional activities. I’m going to tell you a deep, dark, secret (flicks eyes nervously right and left). Ready? (Whispers ) – I really love a particular TV show. I love it so much that I have a collection of stuff from it (two 8-foot bookcases worth and growing). But you won’t find much reference to it on any of my professional accounts instead you will find those on my nom de plume’s persona which includes among other things her own blog, Facebook page, and e-mail. She even has gotten published a time or two on the subject. This is probably more extreme than most of you will need, but be very aware of what you are putting out there and duplicate accounts with a specific purpose can help keep things that have nothing to do with your professional life separate from it.

In addition, having multiple accounts often helps an online system to do what you want it to better. Separate and topic specific accounts make it easier to find like minded people, if you post everything on every topic you’re interested in from one account it gets contusing and people don’t know what to expect from you. If you keep accounts focused on one topic (at least broadly) per account people know what to expect and you’re more likely to be a successful member of an online community no matter what your topic of interest.
I’m going to try something different today with this blog post and see if we can get some interaction going. So here is your assignment if you choose to accept it. Search for yourself online, (using any search engine you like). Scroll through the first 3 pages of results. Change your name search up, try adding your middle name or initial, substitute a nickname instead, add or subtract quotations around your name (depending on the search engine) and scroll through the first 3 pages of those results. Respond to this post with one thing you were surprised to find about yourself online. (No, it doesn’t have to be something embarrassing, for example the last time I did this I discovered LibGuides, a system we use at the library, creates a page and lists all the subjects you’ve used it for. I had no idea.)  Happy Hunting!

By Sarah S. Uthoff, Reference Librarian

P.S. No, I’m not going to tell you my nom de plume or the TV show.

P.P.S. Yes, it should really be nom de keyboard or something now, but that doesn’t have the same ring, does it?

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