Is it normal to inform a person that you have made an overt-attempt to obtain information about them?  Has the internet provided a mechanism to legalize stalking?  Or is this behavior simply a sign of the times? The facts are wearisome: fifty million times a day, someone “Google’s” someone else’s name.[1]

As much as I protest, I acknowledge that it is inevitable.  Just last week, a client told me that they did not know that I was in the Air Force.  I asked how they knew that.  The answer?  You guessed it; “I Googled you”. My employer also candidly informed me of the information they obtained about me by way of “Google”. In fact, in 2008, over 22% of employers reported using Social Media sites to research job applicants. In June of 2009, that number climbed to 45%. Many employers would be discouraged from hiring an employee if they make some fundamental mistakes of public disclosure on the internet; making disparaging remarks about a former employer, posting photos of alcohol or drug use, or posting provocative or inappropriate information or photographs. Everything you do now is part of your permanent record, as many websites have a disclaimer that they retain the information and/or pictures for life.

I previously taught Social Media at a local university. During the first class, I turned on the overhead projector and “Googled” the student’s names. Certainly, this may have been embarrassing; but it was an important lesson that you never know who could be looking at your information on-line. My advice to the class was – Google yourself often.

If you have less than favorable information posted about you, there are a couple of steps you can take to eliminate this problem. The first is obvious: remove all negative content that you have control over, i.e. posts on Facebook or Twitter. Next, create positive information by way of posting a profile on Linked In, in which you can highlight your professional attributes and create a strong network of virtual professionals. Lastly, in the most extreme circumstances, you can hire a company who specializes in removal of negative information on the World Wide Web. This is commonly known as “scrubbing” your profile. The downside to this option is that it is fairly expensive.

For more information, contact Attorney Mike Fontaine