The last exam I passed some days ago focussed on the issue of digital identity. Some people obviously consider that googling a job applicant is an infringement of privacy. Putting all your stuff online, even private data (such like photos of your last party or of your baby) is seen as potentially dangerous. However, I think that is issue raised here is not the right one and has to be transposed : putting all your life online is not dangerous if you know ho to manage your digital identity.
Most of people actually think that the internet is a duty-free zone where you can do anything you want whenever your want. They ignore that everything they put online can potentially be seen by billions of people all around the world. The problem is that those persons shares indifferently personal and professional information with all their contacts without any protection. Accessing online publicly available and non protected data is not an infringement!
Tools aimed at creating and configuring different access levels that allow different people to access different information already exist. So you can split your information stream into to dedicated ones, not merging you professional and your personal online lives any more. You also have to manage your public profiles just to allow people knowing a bit about you, but only neutral information that won’t impact your online reputation.
Just like you try to manage your offline reputation everyday, you’ve got to do the same with the online one which is more important because it is the most easily accessible one even by unknown people. Should you stop entertaining online and doing non-professional things ? Not at all, but you can do both of them and conciliate the both usages by splitting your digital identity : you can use your real name on some services and a nickname on less serious ones.
A big problem is that you can’t manage all the stuff you’re tagged in that some friends of yours are putting on social networking sites. But you can un-tag yourself on most compromising photos and mot making them accessible from your public profile. Many solutions already exist to share a specific content with some kinds of people, such as family dedicated social networks or work-related networking services that won’t let unauthorised people to access your informations.
Digital identity is a new concept that people have to learn from, but it will probably become one of the most important issue in the next few years. This have to be considered right know because it will probably take several years for Google to forget everything he already knows about you… So take care of your online reputation, dude!