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Social Media Polaroid Icons, Personal safety and identity protection online

It is becoming more difficult to manage your identity on the internet and many social networking sites use a default stance of “opt in” with regards to privacy settings. You may want to consider the following tips for protecting your safety and identity online.


  • Online Privacy

    • For each site that you use; you will need to visit the Privacy Settings page(s) and decide how visible you want to be. This can be a complicated process, but it is often better to be overly cautious with regards to your personal privacy.
    • Periodically review the privacy policies/settings of those sites you use.
    • You may want to consider using multiple profiles on some sites – creating separate profiles for your personal and professional lives. Your professional profile may be set as being more open and visible than your private one and can be used exclusively for your academic content, comment and communication.
    • The connected nature of the internet means that it is possible to harvest an enormous number of trivial facts about an individual that can then be built up into a full profile and used for fraudulent means such as identity theft. Never publish personal details (your own or those of others) on social networking sites. This may include, but is not limited to, date of birth, phone numbers, financial details, home address, mother’s maiden name, etc.
    • Carefully consider how you conduct your online relationships with students, customers and other stakeholders. How can these compromise your safety and/or identity?
    • Use caution in your use of geo-tagging services. Revealing your current location may inform the world that your home or office are presently unoccupied.
    • Do not use your university login credentials as your username and password for social networking or any other sites - a security breach at another site could allow someone to access your university account.
    • If you would not do it offline – do not do it online. This may include arranging to meet strangers in an unknown or remote location or offering to phone someone outside of the working environment.

    You should also review your passwords, ways of working online and your understanding of phishing - available from our Cyber Security page.

  • Identity Fraud

    Your online identity security is closely linked to your online privacy settings and the way you conduct yourself within social networks. Criminals can extract information about you online and use this to gain access to your online accounts, bank accounts, take out credit cards in your name or any other fraudulent activity that allows them to make a financial gain at your expense.

    Firstly; NEVER reveal your password or security PIN to anyone - no genuine person or company will ever ask you for it!

    Secondly; consider completing an Ego Surf and discover what others can see about you. You are looking for any information that could help a criminal to steal your identity:

    • Date of birth
    • First pet's name
    • Mother's maiden name
    • Clues to what your password may be (see Cyber Security for more info about creating secure passwords)

    See this quick Barclays advert for an indication of what a fraudster can find and use.

    Ego surf 

    verb (used without object) 

    1. Informal. to search the Internet to find references to one's name or one's personal information 

    Ego Surf Tips

    • Start with your full name in quotes e.g. "firstname middlename(s) surname".
    • Add your home town to the search.
    • Add your schools, university, employers to the search.
    • Search for family and friends who may have posted pictures or information about you.
    • Don't restrict your search to a single search engine (they all trawl the web in slightly different ways and find different results). As a minimum, you should be looking at Google and Bing.
    • Don't stop after the first page of search results - there might be something important on page 5.
    • Don't restrict yourself to the standard text search - check images and videos too.
    • Don't restrict your search to just search engines, see what is visible on:
      • Social networks such as Twitter and Facebook (although these results will usually also appear in search engines).
      • Log out of your social networks and try to find yourself to see what is instantly publicly visible.
      • People directories such as the Phone Book and You do not have to pay for these services - just get an indication of what they know about you from their search results overview page.
    • Search for nicknames (with and without your real name attached).
    • Search for events that you have attended (you may want to include the names of people you attended with in case you feature in their photos, but might not have been named).
    • If you have a complicated name - you might want to include any common mispellings.
    • If you have a very common name - you might need to dig deeper into the results to find anything relevant
    • If you share your name with someone famous - you might need to include more information about yourself or attach your home town to every search.

    Action Fraud (UK Police)


  • Find it - Clean it

    You are what others see

    First (and often second) impressions count in almost all aspects of our lives. Future employers are very likely to search for you online to get a snapshot of the sort of person you are. Consider the following:

    • Would you walk into a job interview straight from a night out and expect to be hired?
    • Would you swear (visually or vocally) in a classroom or workplace?
    • Would you teach in a school whilst wearing inappropriate clothing?
    • Would you steal from a shop?

    These are all things that the professional body, for your course, or a future employer could interpret from your online activity. Let's view these examples slightly differently.

    • Have you (or your friends) posted images of you in a drunken or culturally inappropriate state?
    • Have you made unpleasant comments about another person or posted images that show you offering a visual insult?
    • Are there any pictures of you, online, that you would not want to be found by a class of 13 year old students?
    • Have you ever spoken about watching a DVD before its official release date?

    Can a person, searching for you online, view any negative information about you or from you?

    social_media_cleaning, Clean it up

    If you completed an "Ego Surf" after reading Identity Fraud (above), then you should have a reasonable idea of what is good and bad about the content of your online presence. Now is the time to put it all right.

    • Delete anything embarrassing.
    • Delete anything that shows you in a bad light.
    • If you wouldn't show it to your grandma or put it in your CV - then it probably needs to go!
    • Teaching or coaching? If you don't want it to be found by a class of 14 year olds - then it probably needs to go!
    • Got an old Bebo or MySpace account that you will never use again - get rid of it! See the BackgroundChecks website for information about how to delete your account at hundreds of popular sites.
    • And don't forget to check your privacy settings. If in doubt - lock it down! 
    • If your online existence is one long stream of "funny" GIFs, insults and rude jokes - maybe you need to delete your account(s) and start again.

    Adding some shine

    It does not all need to be negative. You can turn your online presence to your advantage. Showcase your best bits.

    1. Grab yourself a LinkedIn account and start to create a professional profile. "Friend" some important and some local people in your chosen field.
    2. Sign up to one or more suitable social sites that will allow you to showcase your talents:
      • Vimeo or YouTube if you're in the arts or handy with a video camera.
      • Flickr or Google Photos if you're good with a camera
      • Search for dedicated networks for your chosen career - there are a few out there (lots for educators)
    3. If you have a professional body - add them to your network of friends on one or more platforms (often Facebook and Twitter as a minimum).
    4. Consider creating a "nameplate" site - these are one-page websites that let you create a public profile like a brief visual CV, but some are so much more than that. Add videos, create portfolios of projects, keep a blog (online diary), write a traditional CV and more:
      • - Simple one page site with image and brief details/link(s) (example Olivia Lane)
      • - you can draw in a feed of your content from other sites such as Facebook, Twitter, Vimeo and Flickr (example Future Female)
    5. Why not sell yourself through a "sticky" post on Facebook and/or Twitter. You can write something amazing and then "pin" it to the top of your wall or profile.

    Reputation Management

    An excellent article from Status Labs that is worth a read: Reputation Management for Individuals – 20 Essential Tips

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