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Data Privacy Day focuses on online reputation

28 January 2010

Data Privacy Day, an international event held annually on 28 January will this year focus on online reputation.

The event, being held in Washington, D.C. will look at the emerging issue of the risks associated with sharing too much information online.

An increasingly larger number of people of all ages and backgrounds are sharing more of their lives through social networks, blogs, photo- and video-sharing, and other online services.

Most of the time it's a fun, entertaining way to socialise, but it can also land people in hot water. Headlines about students expelled from schools illustrate the risk of sharing too much in cyberspace.

According to Julie Inman-Grant, director of Internet privacy and safety at Microsoft, such high-profile troubles underscore a growing disconnect between people's confidence in their online reputations and how information posted online is being used, for better or worse.

"While use of the Internet has evolved dramatically over the past decade, our understanding of how online personas can affect real-world prospects has not necessarily kept pace," she said.

"You really do need to be vigilant, but at the same time, there is a real opportunity here as well. Fortunately, some simple steps can help ensure your online reputation is an asset rather than a liability."

Indeed, recent research shows many people are not aware of just how important their online reputation is.

Projecting the right online profile can make the difference between getting hired and getting rejected by an employer, for example.

The event will feature a keynote address from Michael Fertik, CEO of Silicon Valley-based ReputationDefender and a noted expert in online reputation management.

A featured panel discussion will include Microsoft's Director of Privacy Strategy Brendon Lynch, iKeepSafe's Marsali Hancock, the Cato Institute's Jim Harper, Future of Privacy Forum's Jules Polonetsky, and the Federal Trade Commission Bureau of Consumer Protection's Nat Wood.

"Regardless of whether you're a student, parent, job-seeker or retiree, your online presence is important," says Marsali Hancock, whose organisation, iKeepSafe, works with corporations, nonprofits and policy leaders to promote the safe and healthy use of online information.

"Whether they are aware or not, people make decisions every day online that can have long-lasting consequences."

Hancock says she frequently hears stories about people being denied college admission, losing a job opportunity or experiencing other negative consequences as a result of content posted on the Web.

But it's not all bad news. She says the issue of online reputation is a double-edged sword with just as much power to help as hinder people in their personal and professional lives.

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