As we communicate and associate with people and businesses more and more online we begin to leave a digital foot print for all to see. This is especially the case if you have been online a long time and have associated your name with your online actions through profiles, instant messengers, and/or social networking sites. It may also be the case that you find your name online in a public forum through no doing of your own. Searching on my own name I’ve come across emails I sent out while doing tech-support for a gaming video card company. My name was attached to my email because that was part of my job and then someone took my email and posted it on a message board for others to see, forever linking my name to Macintosh support for that company.
Where this can become an issue is when you apply for a job and your internet savvy boss decides to Google your name. This can be a problem for several reasons as not only will anything you’ve ever done online will come up, but if you have a common name, other people’s online deeds may show up as well. In that case, even if you have been a good netizen (and your offline slate is clean or has not been made available online) your reputation may be tarnished by others. While you may be able to explain those cases away, be careful that you do not land in the same situation this previous government employee did when his employers decided to research his work history online. While this is old news to many, I am surprised at the amount of people who have never considered this a possibility.
This practice is only going to become more common as our online and offline lives become more integrated and therefor should be something of which more people are aware. So be careful what you put out there, and keep tracks on what others have said about you as well. Your next job may depend on it.