A year ago in honor of Data Privacy Day, I wrote "How to Keep Your Privacy Private: Data Privacy Day 2010," and called out the need to protect our personal and families' privacy, with emphasis on investing the necessary time to protect your privacy. One year later, that advice continues to remain valid and, in fact, more important than ever. As more and more of our societal interaction has included an online component, we must ensure that we are paying attention every time we hit that "enter" key.
What's changed from 2010 to 2011? More and more of us have migrated successfully to the myriad of social networks that are euphemistically pounding at our front door. Joining in the barrage of invites to join this or that entity, we've seen the larger online social network sites (in the English-speaking world: Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and Foursquare) capturing the largest audiences and become the new places where we begin our day. Here's a question I asked at an event in 2010: "How many of you check Twitter or your social networks before your feet hit the floor in the morning?"About one-quarter of the 300 people present raised their hand. Quite a telling answer, and one that solidified in my mind that checking in is right up there with reaching for your morning coffee.
With this level of insertion into our everyday lives, social networks and the attendant social media are here to stay and will only become more and more prevalent and omnipresent. Additionally, there is the unintended growth of personal data that each of us creates as we move through our daily lives. A professional colleague of mine coined this "our digital exhaust."
Take a moment and review your exhaust. Review how many different online profiles you've created. Consider how many photos, videos, emails, comments, and tweets you've posted in public or quasi-public locales. These are the nuclei of your biographic mass, which can and will be compiled about you by any number of interested entities, whether they are marketers or hiring managers. I assure you, this information will not match your well-framed and articulated persona or the resume that you so painstakingly created. The good news is that if you know what others know, then you are prepared for the question that may arise about a given incident or piece of publicly available data.
In sum, you need to be the one responsible for the care, usage, and control of your personal data. Don't cede that responsibility to others, as none have the equity state that you do in your own good name.