Manage your newest asset: your online ID

By Amelia Ross, producer


NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- Social networking comes with a price -- and that price is control of your online reputation. Make bad decisions, and it could affect your ability to get a job, a promotion, a bank loan or even a favorable divorce settlement.

It's not really free to set up a Facebook account. The same holds with your Twitter account. Or Blippy.com. Or any number of other social networking sites. The price is the information about you. What you post, what your friends post on your wall, where geo tagging of photos places you at a given time, your searches, and your purchases -- it all becomes available for data mining.

Current employers, potential employers, banks and even lawyers are getting smarter about using behavioral information gathered from social networking sites. And despite improved privacy options, government guidelines and regulations, your ability to control what is known about you is diminished.

"It's impossible to get posts and photos back once they are out there," said Ondrej Khrehei, information security officer at ID Theft 911.

Whatever information you have put out there is discoverable. Privacy settings are not good enough barriers. Even if you turned on your Facebook higher privacy setting, your activity prior to the switch in privacy is archived by search engines.

"Social networking is the best thing that ever happened to divorce lawyers," said Adam Levin, chairman and co-founder of Credit.com. "And without a doubt banks are looking at this too, although no one will admit it."

While your credit score is still key to getting a bank loan, your online identity could be a possible benefit or barrier to that loan.

"Just because you spent $500 at Amazon doesn't mean your will be loan denied, but some online activity could have a make or break element," said Jacob Jegher, senior analyst at Celent, a financial services research firm. "Tweeting about losing your job might be filtered out of all the social networking noise."

Your online presence is even more important to your career. Certainly it's a way for potential employers to find you and determine if you are a good fit for the organization. A Microsoft survey showed that 75% of employers have looked at social media technology when evaluating a job applicant and 70% have rejected an applicant or failed to promote an employee because of what's online.

What you can do to secure your online identity:

  • Set your privacy settings and check them periodically.
  • Check and see if you have been tagged in a photo.
  • Be careful about over posting; data mining is pervasive.
  • Be aware that participating in online quizzes could make your personal data available to data mining.
  • Be mindful of putting your personal data on a startup site that may not have its security and privacy settings well established.

Talkback: Have you recently upped your online privacy settings? If so, why? To top of page

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