Stay On Top of Your Online Profile

Managing your online profile involves more than a simple matter of watching what you say and do, which in simpler times was good enough.

By Michelle Martin
Published April 09, 2009

The way my friend and I used technology to meet at a halfway point between our two cities of residence, you'd think we were international women of mystery.

I had emailed her a map of the proposed location - a link to the Google satellite version, since she was unfamiliar with the landscape. When I arrived there, I gave her a quick call on my cell. She answered and informed me that she was five minutes away (t minus 300 seconds) and headed in my direction.

Of course there were some notable absences: GPS receivers, bluetooth headsets, Astin Martins...

Yes, technology makes life a lot easier, and in some ways a lot more fun. Email and social networking sites like Facebook have made both staying in touch with old friends and making new ones simple.

An old elementary school chum (female) of my eldest son from the city where we used to live, for example, was able to meet and get to know online another young woman - one of his elementary school classmates from where we live now. The relationship continues to this day, as they finish up undergraduate studies.

A budding long-distance friendship between peers is a great thing, provided it is pursued under the watchful eyes of involved parents if the people involved are minors.

Nothing on the Internet is Private

One thing that parents need to repeat and that we all need to remember is the fact that nothing on the internet is private.

It doesn't matter if you've enabled the privacy settings on your Facebook account: the personal information you give to Facebook is not ultimately private.

In fact, I found out a lot about Facebook violations of Canadian privacy legislation from the website Weekend Pictures.

I first heard about Weekend Pictures on the CBC radio show Q, during the Download Down-Lo segment, while driving home from the aforementioned meeting with my friend. It is a project by MA student Steven May, who is studying Media Production at Ryerson University.

According to University of Ottawa Law Student Lisa Feinberg on Weekend Pictures, Facebook apparently violates the Canadian Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act (PIPEDA) in 22 ways.

What's the Big Deal?

Now, young people may not be immediately bothered by this, perhaps because they've grown up with this kind of technology. The response is often something like, "Well, I'm not doing anything to be ashamed of online, so what's the big deal?"

I notice this with my own oldest kids and their reaction to Google Street View - they figure, what's the harm, you're going to behave yourself, aren't you?

Well, aren't you?

So I'm forced into my fallback position with them, which is: Please. Be. Careful.

In any case, I highly recommend forcing your teenagers to visit the Weekend Pictures site the next time they log on. It will give them plenty of food for thought.

I haven't yet watched all of the videos on it, but I've found lots to chew on so far. Our understanding of what is private and public, automatic online networking, privacy legislation, Facebook hacking... even how Zoominfo works.

I even discovered that I have a Zoominfo page because I've written for the Hamilton Spectator. I had no idea.

Wait, no - the sole source is one letter to the editor I wrote in 2006. To claim my profile, I have to give them my email address and register as a member. I'm not sure how I feel about that. But if I don't, can someone then claim to be me and hijack it? Perhaps I'd better...

...Well, I did it. And no one asked me to verify my identity in any way. Staying on top of my online profile is going to require more vigilance than I thought. Clearly it's more than a simple matter of watching what I say and do - which in simpler times, was good enough.

Michelle Martin lives in Hamilton. The opinions she expresses in Raise the Hammer are her own.


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By Michelle Martin (registered) - website | Posted April 14, 2009 at 16:15:28

Been researching for something else, came across this today, about a real case of internet defamation:

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By Diannewood (registered) | Posted April 17, 2009 at 17:55:59

Lots to think about here. Nothing is really private anymore unless we lie.

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