Reputational Privacy for Some

April 25, 2011

Reputational Privacy for Some

   A new survey from Norton made its way to me and collided in my head with another observation. The survey among British adults was about online reputation and some interesting tidbits surfaced in the perennial discussion of reputations online. Once again, it quickly gets down to privacy issues that seem increasingly difficult to fence in online.  Over one half of British respondents said they would not mind “resetting” the button to erase everything about them online. I think there is a huge pent up demand to hit that reset button at least once in our lifetimes — and for good reason. About four in ten (40%) report that they don’t actively safeguard their reputations online.  We worry and pout about the loss of privacy but do we do anything really to protect ourselves?
I sometimes try to imagine the world even five years from now when everything about us is woven together into an online profile about where we were born, our friends, colleagues, indiscretions, good deeds, professional and professional events we attended all spliced together with rumors, hearsay, innuendo and just plain misinformation.  I got to thinking about this as I was reading an interesting article about President Obama’s mother and her journey to Indonesia with the president as a young boy.  I thought how interesting it was that the author, Janny Scott, had to interview Stanley Ann Dunham’s  (Obama’s mother) former colleagues, friends, neighbors and two children (one being in the White House) about her because she never lived her life online. This was all pre-Internet days. Probably a good thing. The author had to resort to the old way of writing a book . It is almost delicious in its quaintness. Here is what is says on Amazon about the book:

Award-winning reporter Janny Scott interviewed nearly two hundred of Dunham’s friends, colleagues, and relatives (including both her children), and combed through boxes of personal and professional papers, letters to friends, and photo albums, to uncover the full breadth of this woman’s inspiring and untraditional life, and to show the remarkable extent to which she shaped the man Obama is today.

The juxtaposition of people living their lives online for all to see with people who lived the majority of their lives without the scrutiny and accessibility of the Internet actually makes the new book even more interesting because it probably contains the unknowable.  Imagine depending on letters and photo albums to tell our lives today.  Almost unthinkable.

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Leslie Gaines-Ross
Leslie Gaines-Ross

As Weber Shandwick’s Chief Reputation Strategist, I focus on the ever changing world of reputation. For the past 25 years, I have relentlessly observed, researched and commented on the rise and fall of corporate and CEO reputations.

  • cksyme
    Posted at 16:41h, 25 April Reply

    Thanks for the thoughtful insights. The digging for offline info on the president’s mother reminds me that, electronic or not, information is still out there to be had if people know how and where to go. Online has just made it less time consuming. I think privacy is an eternal issue–the ease of finding information online about “everyman” has just broadened and intensified the discussion.

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