I just taught a segment in David Lazer’s Social Networking class at Harvard on how people can analyze and visualize their social networks. David invited the whole class to join him on LinkedIn and we noticed that a couple of students were hesitant to join due to security concerns. We have a very mixed audience of MPP, MPA, Midcareer and PhD students from all kinds of different industries – some of them from the military and security area. One of the students asked me: “Can you give me one good reason why I should join any of the social networking sites?” – given the background and affiliations of some of the students, I couldn’t come up with an argument why people should join – on the contrary I understand that some people need to keep a low public profile, so that not too much of their private information or details about their CV will become publicly available.
So I started to think about what are reasons why I have all my information uploaded to all kinds of websites? I have a Flickr page, an openBC/Xing profile, a LinkedIn profile, a personal website, a corporate website and post on my own blog and on our blog at the Kennedy School. Am I too open to give away this much information? On the other hand, I am not working in the military or security area, right?
It turns out that there are ways to control what people can find out about you. I talked with Bill Liao, the co-founder of Xing (formerly openBC) about this issue and he pointed me to the people finder search engine ZoomInfo. It is a search engine that gives summaries of people (Find tab) or let’s you create a more detailed profile online, so that recruiters, etc. can find you easier (BeFound tab). Controlling what you actually want other people to find about you comes with a price: pro version for $49/month. But it is definitely one way to control what information can be found about you and also a way to manipulate your online information.
I tried it and was surprised about the result (Remember, I have a at least seven different pages directly connected with my name where I actively produce content). Here is the result:
So there are four entries – one with the direct link to my Kennedy School subpage, but the others are from older sources tracking some of my (past) academic activities. That’s about it. Google on the other hand finds 13.200 different entries.
Another way of controlling what is found by Archive.com or Google seems to be to ask thems to take down some of your indexed information and not display it when people search for your name.
What are your thoughts on the dangers of having your information publicly available on social networking platforms? Are there any measures you take to avoid having too much information available for the rest of the world?
(hm… guess I just created another piece of publicly available information)
Check out also the Netgov Blog for additional comments on this posting.