Privacy on the Web

We were recently contacted by someone who wanted to know how much it would cost to remove mention of himself from Google and another website. The references were not really derogatory, but still this caller wanted to know how he could control what he saw as an intrusion into his privacy.

We told our caller the facts of life in this hyper-connected world. Without access to the site folder and files of this other website, it was not possible to remove the offending material. It is possible to request Google remove items from their search results, but it  can be a continuing process and take some time.

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The best thing for him to do, we said, is to take charge of his online presence by reinvigorating his own website, adding positive material on a regular basis to his site, and participating on professional social media sites. Accentuate the positive.

By doing this, internet searches on his name will lead to more outside references verifying his good qualities. The unhelpful mentions will be competing with this more positive material, and gradually will fade down from the search results on his name.

Unfortunately, this all seemed overwhelming to our potential client. He thanked us for our time, restated again that he just wanted the other mentions removed, and that he was mostly concerned with this intrusion into his privacy.

Presumably, he called the next name on his list until he found the ‘web guy’ who would take his money and remove all mention of him from the web, possibly using a magic spell.

This made me think about how the web has changed our concept of privacy in many ways.

People need privacy. They really do not want government or corporations knowing too much about their private lives. On the other hand, the upcoming generation seems comfortable revealing intimate details of their lives on Facebook or other networks that are easily monitored by complete strangers.

After all, by participating in FaceBook or LinkedIn even in a limited manner, people reveal personal information that is sold. That’s the business model.

This brought to mind how my parent’s generation would have looked askance at this. In the culture I grew up in, talking about one’s work was simply not done. You shared private issues or opinions only with close, personal friends. And it was definitely not considered good form to toot one’s own horn.

But nowadays, as the concept of work continues to tilt more and more toward entrepreneurship and creating one’s own business, tooting one’s own horn – or ‘accentuating the positive,’ as I call it – is an essential. Thankfully we have many opportunities to do this via the internet. This idea made our caller uncomfortable, and I don’t blame him. But if you have a web presence at all, it’s an essential practice.

You don’t have to let anyone else control the way you are perceived, no matter what shows up when you google your name. By creating your own web presence, you can control your privacy, and encourage people to see only what you want them to see about you.

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