7 ways to protect your personal reputation online

People are looking for you online, whether it’s a potential employer, client, or lover. Make sure they find your best self.

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Thing is, it wasn’t about me. I share a name with a former public information officer for a Midwest school system. From what I pieced together, an IT security breach of some kind triggered some fallout for which my namesake was blamed. (I’m pretty sure it wasn’t her fault.)

Given our different geographies and occupations, my reputational risk from the nasty comments was minimal. But it was an unpleasant and creepy taste of what it must be like to experience an online attack or mistaken identity. (For an account of a much harsher lesson, pick up James Lasdun’s memoir of being a victim of a horrifying Internet vendetta, “Give Me Everything You Have.”)

Everyone in the PR or reputation business knows that online reputation damage— deserved or not—is the underbelly of the anonymous Web, both for critics and their targets. Google isn’t just a search engine, it’s a reputation engine, as anyone who’s checked out a prospective blind date knows. What’s more, according to at least one source, 78 percent of recruiters do reputation searches for job candidates, and 63 percent check social media sites.

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