Saturday, March 12, 2011

Digital footprints

I understand Richardson's concern about how good your profile looks when you Google yourself.  I haven't done that for a long time and frankly, I was a little alarmed at how much information is out there about me.

The first hit was Facebook.  I hope I have been careful with my security settings-I think I have.  I realized that there are several other people with my same name-spelled the same-and belonging to the same religious denomination.  That was interesting.  My daughters and daughter-in-law are interested in family trees and my name pops up on the sites they have used with more information than I am really comfortable with.  I owned a business twenty years ago which pops up as an operating business still.  I didn't have a website but small business organizations published the material.  One site said the business had an annual income in the neighborhood of $50,000.  I wish!- it never broke $10,000. Which goes to show how you can easily get the wrong impression.
I'm there in the Church e-newsletter, newsletters by boards my husband and I serve on and blogs that my children write and the website I publish through school.

I was surprised to see that my teaching license is right there for anyone to see posted by the department of education.

Overall, there is nothing I am ashamed of but I am alarmed at how much a person could find out about me if they wanted to.  I am especially sensitive to this right now because my parents were victims of a scam in which a women called them and convinced them that she was my daughter and got them to wire $3,000 supposedly for bail money.  They are vulnerable because they are too trusting, are old and have diminished capacity to make rational judgments and are fairly isolated.

There are several conclusions to draw from this.
1. Be careful.  You can't control what other people post so be careful and check Google regularly.
2.  We live in a very public age.  The information that is out there is available to everyone.  We can't assume privacy any more.
3.  I have learned that I should think more than twice about who I mention in any vehicle that is on-line.  I don't want to inadvertently put someone else at risk.
4. If I am researching someone else, there is potential to find a lot of information.  I need to think about the conclusions I draw based on that information.
5. Teaching and practicing ethical behavior is critical.


  1. I've been thinking a lot about this issue lately too. I often wonder, when someone looks up "Carl Anderson" looking for information about me and they find information about all the other "Carl Andersons" out there, how much of their digital footprints shape the way people perceive mine? And, how much are our digital identities shaped together. For me this is a somewhat benign question since when I Google my name I mostly come up with a lot of information about the Broadway performer who played Judas in Jesus Christ Superstar, a Harvard English professor, the Supreme Knight of the Knights of Columbus, and guy who became well known as a Santa Clause. Not a bad group to be associated with. But, one time I did this activity with a group of teachers and one of them found out that she shared a name with a porn star and couldn't research her digital footprint without having to see sexually explicit images and language. When someone tries to look her up online how are their perceptions inadvertently influenced by this unavoidable fact? It seems to me that we might now also have an ethical obligation to those who share our names, even those we don't know nor will ever meet. What do you think?

  2. Agreed. We live in a global community where we all have to take some responsibility for each other. That being said, we don't have to reveal every aspect of our lives online or conversely, expect to be able to find out everything about someone else online. I wonder about whether or not we risk becoming more isolated because of our use of digital technology and consequently don't realize how potentially damaging something we put online can be. Would we behave the same way face to face or on paper?