Peer Privacy Protectors
A Privacy Guide by Teens, for Teens

Un Guide sur la vie privée
conçu par des adolescents pour les adolescents

5: Online Reputation = Offline Impact

Section 5. Online Reputation = Offline Impact 


— ‘Staying Woke’ about your Reputation and Privacy —

Teens need to ‘stay woke’ and be alert to privacy risks to reputation. But what do we mean when we talk about reputation online? What kinds of protections might assist in protecting reputation and privacy online? What are the risks, particularly for young people living their lives online? What rights do people have, or should they have, to protect their online reputations? What role do governments and corporations currently play in protecting people online, and what role should they play?


— What is ‘online reputation’? —

When you put something online, it can stay there for a long time, possibly forever. And, you can’t take it back — once you put something online, it can be almost impossible to remove it completely. When someone else puts something online about you, it’s exactly the same except you have even less control. People in high school now are the first generation of Canadians who have lived all of their life with access to the internet, and our society is still trying to work through how to develop rules, laws, and norms about how the huge amounts of information increasingly available about people can be used — or should be used — to affect their lives. Is it fair for potential employers to look at Facebook? Is it fair for police to monitor Twitter? Is it fair that anyone should be able to collect a whole bunch of information about us, analyze it, lump  it in with the information of others, and make decisions about what to try to sell us or what services we deserve (this is one way big data works)? Who should be responsible for making the rules and enforcing them — governments? Companies? There are a lot of questions here, and the answers are going to have a serious effect on how people get judged and treated in the future, in both professional and personal relationships.

Peer Privacy Protectors Share: 
      Tips to protect your online reputation


Controlling your reputation in the physical world is difficult enough as it is, but protecting it online can be even more challenging. The truth is that nothing you post online will ever be truly private or secure. And, you can’t take it back — once you put something online, it can be almost impossible to remove it completely. However, if you want to take action to ensure that your online presence remains untarnished, here are a few helpful tips and tricks to help you stay on top of how people see you online.

Not all tips will apply or appeal to everyone, and some of them will probably raise questions in your mind. The tip about how to create a positive image for a potential employer, for example, might make you wonder if employers should be allowed to use social media to evaluate job candidates at all. But all of these tips, written by the PPPP teens,  provide things to think about when you are putting yourself out there online. Your future self will thank you.


Maintain a positive and professional presence

  • Avoid hiding behind the screen: remember that you should be mindful of how you conduct yourself online similar to how you would in face-to-face encounters.
  • Consider using a codename or alias.
  • Remember, you have freedom of speech. You decide what you post, but you also have to take full responsibility for all your posts. Make your posts worthy of your values and beliefs. 

Curate and monitor

  • Search yourself: Use different search engines (remember, Google isn’t the only one)  to search for yourself and comb through whatever results pop up. 
  • Take the time to hide or remove any problematic content or information you do not want associated with your online identity.
  • Ask others remove negative content about you too.
  • Stay fresh: instead of trying to bury the past, look to building a new future. Update your accounts with professional and clean looking posts and photos because Google brings up the latest information, so when you update your accounts, fresh updates show up first. 

Protect your privacy

  • Take control of your privacy settings on social media. 
  • Protect your password.
  • Assume that nothing is private: if something will be truly damaging to your online reputation and would create major problems, then DON’T POST IT!

Get informed, be careful, and stay on top of changes to the online world

  • Remember that service providers often change things like terms of service including privacy policies. It’s not enough to look at them once, you need to check for changes regularly. 
  • Do not enter personal information online unless you’ve checked the credentials of the website. 
  • Don’t talk to strangers: if you don’t know who you are speaking to on the internet, be careful when disclosing confidential information.
  • Delete dormant accounts. 

— What is the role of goverment and corporations in protecting online reputation? —

We’ve provided a lot of tips for managing your own reputation, but there’s another side to the issue. Do governments have a role to play, by making laws or regulations, and enforcing them, to make sure that information we share online is treated fairly? How about the companies that ask for our information (or track us without asking) and use it to improve their products, target their advertisements, and make money? Remember, sometimes we share information willingly, because we want to communicate, connect with friends and family, but sometimes we have to share information in order to get services, to buy things, and generally just to participate in daily life in the 21st century.

There are many different opinions about where responsibility should rest for keeping our information and reputations safe, and for deciding who gets to use it, and for what. Policies are going to be developed and discussions need to happen at all sorts of levels. No one has all the answers to what a perfect balance would look like between personal, corporate, and state accountability but it’s an important conversation to have. What do you think?

One right that you have right now, under current laws, is the right to complain. If you are worried that information has been collected from you that shouldn’t have been, or that information about you is being used inappropriately, you can stand up for your rights. Most companies address your rights to ask for information to be corrected or removed in their privacy policies, or terms of service. You might have to look hard to find them, but they should be available. If it is information collected under the Privacy Act or PIPEDA, you can file a complaint with the OPC. If it is information that would be collected by a provincial government, provinces have their own Privacy Commissioners.