In a world of social media,
it is often way too easy to forget that our activity online doesn’t necessarily stay online, nor is it completely anonymous even when we think it might be. Everything from Instagram likes, down to the embarrassing page you liked on Facebook in 2013 can be tracked back to your name, address, or even the old iPhone 4 or Blackberry Curve you had all of those years ago. Here’s a guide on how not to sabotage your offline prospects with your online presence.
Against popular belief, it is absolutely legal and perfectly normal for websites to keep archives of all posts created on the website. Even if you were to delete the content in question, the website may retain rights to archiving material for upto 5 years. This means that even if you delete those tweets from 2014, the website may still have possessory rights to them, and can reproduce the archive on request. If therefore, you feel as though you can produce socially insensitive or derogatory content/commentary, you may be in for a bit of an unpleasant shock.
Many occupations, especially within the public sector, as well as aerospace and travel, will often run background checks on their prospective employees, to ensure their fitness for the position in question. This is where many people lose out on attractive occupational opportunities because of a slightly less-than-polite series of tweets, a less-than-tasteful instagram caption, or an aggressively worded facebook comment. It is therefore very important to think twice before posting on social media.
As technological advances race forward, as does the potential ability for damage to be dealt with a heavy online presence. The availability of online search engines which allow reverse imaging searches has gone from serious FBI level stuff, to hundreds of websites which provide the service completely free of charge.
Catfishes beware, this can blow your cover very quickly and get you into a lot of trouble. The use of someone’s content or personal photos can be seen as theft of intellectual property, fraud, or identity theft. When reported, it often ends in the confiscation of devices with an internet connection, as well as restraining orders, probation and constant authoritative monitoring of the online presence.
What is a VPN?
A VPN or a virtual private network is a system which functions on bouncing your IP address between multiple locations, which makes it very hard to track your activity online- difficult, not impossible however, so any illegal activity that may take place online, even with a VPN, remains illegal and may be traced back to the device. The purpose of a VPN is to assure the privacy of the user, as many corporations including your internet provider, will snoop on your internet activity from time to time.
Using a VPN therefore allows you to browse privately and bask in the knowledge that your private information, starting at name, age and email, down to your shoe size and what your Tesco delivery looked like last week, will not be viewed by anyone else. If you do any online shopping, have your CV saved on your laptop, or any other sensitive file which involves personal/private information, it would be a good idea to download a VPN- better safe than sorry!
Whilst most people don’t know what their IP address is, what it’s used for, or who has access to it, clarity on the purpose and functions can help you stay safer on the internet. Your IP address is like a beacon for the internet, and allows contact between your device and the websites you’re looking at. This doesn’t sound too scary, until you realise any moderator/administrator of any website you look at could retrieve your IP address, run it through a widely available IP Tracking service and track your geolocation.
The accuracy of how close they can track you depends on the service, but some IP trackers literally allow for up to 30ft accuracy. This could lead possible hackers, stalkers, or (if you’re doing anything illegal) enforcement authorities, right to your door step.
Because archives and IP tracking are now so widely available, manipulating the truth on your applications is becoming progressively more difficult. If that wasn’t enough, employers are now very strict on their public relations policies, therefore if your social media accounts don’t check out and agree with the companies’ politics, you may be put on the back burner for the benefit of someone who knows how to put their profiles on private.
Putting your profiles on private is indeed the only solution to this issue, as it completely disallows the viewing of your content without the appropriate permissions. Don’t post outrageous things that may get you in trouble, and if you must, make sure you know who’s viewing them.
International brands, the public sector, education, security and hospitality occupational opportunities will now run extensive background checks, which involve googling you- many applications literally have dedicated sections for you to input your social media handles, which employers can and do check regularly.