Take control of your online identity, Dal community told


Facebook privacy was a leading topic at Dalhousie's Data Privacy Day Jan. 25 (Photo courtesy: Flickr/Grace Mcdunnough)

Ryan McNutt, new media officer at Dalhousie University and editor of Dal News, urged attendees of Dal's Data Privacy Day to check out their own "google identity".

His lecture at the conference was entitled "Check yourself before you wreck yourself: a digital footprint checklist."

McNutt says taking an active role in managing your online identity will help build more meaningful social interactions, online and in person.

"This is probably the most difficult part of living digitally, because it requires us to really try and build good interpersonal relationships," says McNutt, "When you're at a party, and someone is taking a photo, you have to go up and ask ‘Hey, can you not tag or post that?'"

This advice came just in time for Facebook's interface changes.

Facebook Privacy

Facebook's new Timeline user interface, optional since September, will become compulsory for Facebook users within the next few weeks. Users will only have a seven-day window to make changes to their timeline, such as deleting past posts and changing their privacy settings, before Facebook will automatically change their profile layout.

Although Facebook allows users control over the visibility of their contact information, published content and photos with "granular privacy settings," many users neglect to ensure these privacy settings are set.

McNutt sees the interface change as a wake-up call.

"I'm hoping that (Facebook) timeline gets people to look back on what they posted on Facebook, and if that leads them to clean up or re-focus what's out there about them, I think that's a good thing," he said.

Google Privacy

Facebook isn't the only one making changes.

On Jan. 24, Google announced a new privacy policy that will allow data sharing across all Google products such as Google Books, News, Images and Docs. Accessing Youtube through a Google account is also subject to the privacy policy and terms of use that will take effect March 1, 2012.

Google says consolidating users' personal information will "provide better services to all of our users." With the integration of services, Google will be able to customize advertisements using the content of e-mail messages, device and location information.

Managing a double identity

Unlike many users who are active in social media in both their professional and personal lives, McNutt has only one Facebook and one Twitter account.

"I don't have one of those statements that people have on their Twitter profiles, saying ‘my comments don't reflect my employer,' I feel that should go without saying...the bottom line is, don't post things that are stupid," he said.

McNutt says there is a dichotomy between what users want to experience on the web and the data necessary to provide that experience.

"The most important lesson is to think critically about it, if you're using e-social space the way you want it to be used."

More tips from Ryan

  • Google yourself - see what personal information of yourself is available on the web
  • Delete tracking cookies 
  • Be wary of external log-ins and applications that can access your personal information 
  • Create good passwords and read terms of use agreements



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