Where Does Your Personal Information Live?

March 23, 2012

You’d be surprised to find out how much of your information is out there. Your data lives in hundreds of locations online and may even be sold without your permission. Yet, a lot of people maintain trust and feel confident when searching, buying and socializing online–believing their personal information gets lost in the sheer volume of online transactions that take place on a daily basis.

Your personal information can be found through:

  • Search people databases such as Spokeo or Intelius
  • Major search engines like Google, Yahoo and Bing
  • Social networks such as Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn
  • The deep web – the part of the web that cannot be accessed through ordinary search engines

How does your information get there in the first place?

That’s easy. You offer it up. Consider all the things you do online: emailing, shopping, social networking, banking and many more. All of these actions require us to surrender personal and, oftentimes, financial information. It is difficult to always consider carefully where your information goes before sending it into the infinite abyss of the Internet

Here are a few pointers:

1. Check a company’s privacy policy before you sign up for their service. Is it going to sell your information to the highest bidder? If so, think twice before entering your information.

2. If a company doesn’t disclose a privacy policy, don’t provide them with any personal information.

3. Always opt-out when asked to if you are OK with sharing your information with third parties.

We face a serious trade-off between privacy and convenience. Short of never going online, it’s almost impossible to keep all personal information off of the Internet, but that doesn’t mean we have to give up online privacy all together. We just need to make more of an effort to be stingy and vigilant behind the keyboard.


Can Your Facebook Profile Predict Job Performance?

March 13, 2012

In a recent study from Northern Illinois University, researchers found that Facebook profiles can help predict job performance and academic success. A small group of HR professionals and students were asked to review students’ Facebook profiles, grade them according to the Big Five personality traits (conscientiousness, agreeableness, extroversion, emotional stability and openness) and then rate their hirability. Six months later, researchers matched these ratings against employee evaluations from the students’ supervisors and found a strong correlation between the two.

“In five or 10 minutes, our raters could look at the tone of a subject’s wall post, note the number of friends they have, peruse their photos to see how social they were and assess their tastes in books and music. It’s a very rich source of information,” says Don Kluemper, lead researcher of the study.

Other major takeaways of the study include:

  • Facebook scores were a better predictor of future academic success (based upon grade point averages) than personality and IQ scores combined.
  • Facebook profiles are more authentic than personality profiles questionnaires.
  • Emotional extremes displayed on Facebook can translate to “emotionally unstable.”

What can I do to make sure my profile is the best reflection of my personality?

Reppler helps you monitor your Facebook profile, and generates an “Image Score” to evaluate the tone of the language on your wall (positive, neutral or negative). Our “Common Word” widget keeps record of the words used most often by you and your connections. Like to “vent” on Facebook? Chances are your score will indicate a higher level of emotional instability (not exactly something a potential employer wants to see). When it doubt, choose something positive to post.

Interestingly enough, however, social pictures on your profile are not always a bad thing. They indicate extroversion and friendliness. Does this mean anything goes? Certainly not. Some pictures, and you know which ones, should remain for your eyes only.

Whether we like it or not, Facebook is being used as a reliable job-screening tool. It is important to ensure that your profile is consistent with how you would like to be perceived by others, personally and professionally.


Location-Based Services Raise Privacy and Security Concerns

March 6, 2012

With apps like Foursquare and Facebook Places, you can share your whereabouts anytime, anywhere, linking yourself to real world locations. Sounds like a fun and useful feature, right? Maybe… but also potentially very dangerous!

Location-sharing services are popular features on social media sites, but they can also expose another layer of personal information that puts your security at risk. Criminals monitor Facebook and Twitter pages to secretly track their target’s location. And considering that the average home burglary takes just over 10 minutes, a quick trip to the grocery store could grant enough time for a potential break-in.

A quick Google search reveals multiple incidences of criminals using social networks and other interactive websites to target victims. Here are some simple steps to protect yourself:

  • Don’t announce that you will be out of town for trips and vacations.
  • Limit the usage of location-based services like Foursquare and Facebook Places.
  • Don’t share pictures that reveal your address or landmarks near your home.
  • Don’t give detailed accounts of your daily routine online.

It is also important to pay close attention to your privacy settings to ensure that you don’t “overshare” with complete strangers. Only trusted friends should be able keep track of where you are.