Have you had trouble with photos or information about you being posted on the Internet? Are you worried your children might mistakenly share private information on the wild, wild web? David Gingras is an attorney who offers tips for protecting your reputation on the Internet:
1) Always have two Facebook profiles " a private/personal one for friends and a public one for everyone else.
You private profile should have maximum privacy settings. Your public profile should be generic with just one photo, a short bio, and nothing else.
"Facebook, everyone uses it. There are 500 million users right now. People put their pictures, their comments, their personal information on there. They do not realize how widely accessible it is for anyone to take and see and use [that information]," David says. He says having two profiles helps keep your private information private. "That way, if someone wants to search for you, they can find your public page, they can contact you through that, and then if you want to let them be part of your private profile, that's fine."
2) Make sure to set a Google Alert for your name.
By doing this, Google will send you an e-mail immediately if your name is posted anywhere online. If you are a parent, you should also include your kids' names.
"The reason this is so important is because if somebody creates a false website posting about you, you often have a very short amount of time to take legal action " about a year is the average. Different states have different rules," David says.
Keep in mind, current technology does allow for tracing the content back to the computer or person who posted it. "A lot of people think the Internet is anonymous. It is not. You can cover your track. It takes a lot of effort to do that. A lot of people don't go to that extreme, especially if they're using a social website. They generally don't do that, so you can find out who it is," he says.
3) If you post comments on blogs where people are gossiping/debating controversial issues, always use a nickname/pen name/pseudonym " never use your full name.
"The person you are talking to, you don't know who they are, and they might wind up attacking you and putting things out there that are very hard to take back," David says.
4) If you post comments about other people, never write when you're angry.
If you see something that upsets you, and you feel compelled to respond, make a commitment to a "24 hour rule" " write your response but don't send/post it until you've had 24 hours to calm down.
5) If you think you may need legal help, make sure any lawyer you speak with has Internet law experience.
The laws and rules that apply to online matters are complex, and they may be very different to rules for offline disputes.
6) When sending a removal request to a website, be nice!
Because websites enjoy such strong protection under the law, aggressive threats don't carry much weight, and they may alienate the people who are in a position to help you.
"As a person who receives these requests all day long, obviously I appreciate it when someone comes to me and says, 'Look, I have a problem. Can you help me solve it?'" David says. "If someone approaches and says, 'I'm going to sue you. I've got the best lawyers. The police are involved,' they think it'll accelerate it, but the opposite is true."