Online reputation management and your future

Michigan Governor Rick Snyder signed a bill last week prohibiting employers and educational institutions in the state from asking applicants and students for passwords to their email and other online accounts, including social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter.

"Cyber security is important to the reinvention of Michigan, and protecting the private internet accounts of residents is a part of that," Snyder said in a press statement. "Potential employees and students should be judged on their skills and abilities, not private online activity."

But, how private is "private online activity?" The sister of Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg was enraged recently when a picture she posted to the social media site was sent out to millions of people via Twitter by another user.

It is true that employers should not be able to ask for passwords to personal online accounts, but they don't need your password to see what you're doing on Facebook. Once it goes online, "private" unfortunately becomes a relative term. And in today's world, your online reputation can make or break your chances at a new job or getting into the school you want.

There are steps one can take, starting with becoming familiar with the privacy settings of every Web-based service – social media or otherwise – that you use. Knowing exactly what is happening or could happen with content you post on the internet is a good first step.

However, online reputation management goes beyond that. It's also about understanding what other people can do with pictures, posts and other items that you put on the Web, as well as what they can publish that involves you, such as photos or status updates you're tagged in. Do your friends have the same strict privacy settings enabled as you do? If not, you could be at risk.

Employers are looking at Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and more when making hiring decisions. Have you made decisions of your own that will hurt your chances at future success?

John Sileo is an online privacy expert and keynote speaker on social media privacy, identity theft and fraud. His clients included the Department of Defense, Pfizer, and Homeland Security. See his recent work on 60 Minutes, Anderson Cooper and Fox Business.