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TECHNOLOGY

Are You an Oversharer Online? How to Tell

A new tool scans all of your online activity and lets you know if it's in danger of tainting your reputation.

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Last week NPR aired a story about a man named Robert Collins who had to give an interviewer his Facebook username and password in order to get hired at the Maryland Department of Corrections. Since then, the issue of whether or not it’s appropriate for employers to do such a thing has been a hot discussion. Even Facebook itself came out with a statement warning that sharing or soliciting a Facebook password is a violation of Facebook’s Statement of Rights and Responsibilities.

Clearly snooping around in someone’s Facebook account is an invasion of privacy—there’s no question of that. But when I first heard the NPR piece two things occurred to me.

First, I’d never work for a company that would make the request. It’s creepy and communicates a high level of paranoia and mistrust.

Second, if someone were—for whatever reason—to try to dig up some dirt on me that way, he wouldn’t succeed. That’s because I’m really, really careful about what I post on social networks.

Or so I thought.

Tracking your online reputation

After getting a tip about how great the platform is, I thought I’d give Secure.me a whirl. The company claims to be able to easily control your privacy online.

Talk about giving a company access to your account—after using my Facebook credentials to quickly sign into Secure.me, the site scanned everything done, posted, shared, liked, and discussed on Facebook by my friends and me. The process was thorough—it took several minutes to complete.

When finished, Secure.me alerted me that within my Facebook account it found 49 threats to my online reputation, the vast majority because I use apps to post content to Facebook; apparently Secure.me doesn’t like the idea of giving apps permission to share everything I’m doing.

Nothing to argue with there, especially with some of the news reading apps like Washington Post Social Reader. I don’t want everyone knowing what I’m reading because, frankly, sometimes I peruse stupid or bizarre stuff. (Just yesterday one of my friends posted a story about how actress January Jones ate her own placenta and yes, I got sucked into reading it.)

Friends' reputations matter, too

Other findings: Two of my friends had shared harmful links and another two posted questionable content. Why does it matter what my friends are posting? I suppose the kinds of people I associate with online could reflect upon my character.

Secure.me also alerted me to the fact that listing my political affiliation as “jaded” is a high threat to my privacy and could hurt my reputation. Well, I hadn’t thought of that. Am I going to change it? I’ll think about it. Leaving the field empty is probably a better bet considering the divisive nature of politics, but that’s just me. If politics are your passion you’re probably more willing to risk alienating some people who disagree with your ideologies.

Secure.me also doesn’t like that on several occasions I shared my exact location with a geo-tagged post. I’m not worried at all about this. Those posts were at restaurants that I don’t frequent often. Stalkers and crazy people will never find me because of geo-tags. I don’t ever use them at home or in places where I frequently hang out. If you’re smart, you’ll do the same.

Overall, I found Secure.me to be very helpful. If you’re cautious like me, you probably will, as well.

The problem is, most people aren’t careful about what they share. And that’s why the thought of having someone poking around behind the curtain of their Facebook accounts is so unnerving to some people.

What’s your take? Is the over-sharing of information a problem? Or am I just too cautious for my own good? I would love to hear your thoughts.

Last updated: Mar 28, 2012

CHRISTINA DESMARAIS is an Inc.com contributor who writes about the tech startup community, covering innovative ideas, news, and trends. Have a tip? Email her at christinadesmarais (at) live (dot) com.
@salubriousdish




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