Online Identity


You knew it was bound to happen. You just knew it. As cool as Google Street View is, it had to cross the line somewhere. Somewhere appears to be Pittsburgh.

Short story shorter: Couple’s house appears on Street View. Couple lives on a private road. Couple is angry. Couple claims invasion of privacy. Couple sues Google for a sum greater than $25,000.

Guess what? This ain’t your mama’s privacy anymore.

Since the late 90s, the information available on the internet has exploded beyond what Al Gore and the ARPANET creators could have even imagined. You can look up pretty much anyone or anything, and get your answer. The availability of data is expanding as we move to mobile and wireless connectivity to digital information. Pew Research reported last month that 62% of all American adults have taken advantage of mobile internet connectivity. Information is everywhere, and it’s accessible from anywhere.

When I do a search for my name on Google, I come up with 768,000 results. Some of those are about me, and some aren’t. If I wanted to dig a little deeper, I would be able to find where I live, what I do for fun, and how often I’ve irritated people in my town with calls for Homeowners’ Association Fiscal Responsibility. Luckily, there’s no Street view of my house, yet, but I know it’s coming. And, being the “digital native” that my boss calls me, I’ll just have to accept it. The worms are out of the can, my friends. We can’t put them back, but we can learn to live with them.

That brings me to my main point. In a connected culture, we have to redefine our own expectations of privacy. Let’s call it Privacy 2.0, just for fun.

It’s no longer reasonable to assume that people won’t be able to easily find out where you live or what your house is worth. It’s not reasonable to assume that if you get loaded at an underage drinking party, pictures of you won’t show up on Facebook. It’s not reasonable to assume that anything you do outside the 4 walls of your own home won’t be captured, recorded, and added to the ever-growing base of human knowledge. Don’t expect that your private life is anything near what you used to think of as private. It simply isn’t.

So, where does that leave you? You’ve got to understand that now, more than ever, you have to accept responsibility for your actions, and make sure that you’re acting in a manner that portrays the image you want to portray. You’ve also got to be more diligent about your own security and safety. If that means installing a security system or more locks, do it. You must realize that people are going to know more about you than you might want. People will form impressions of you based on what they find on-line, and first impressions always matter.

Back to our friends from Pittsburgh… My (personal, non-BSG-Alliance) opinion is that they’re just looking for a quick buck. Their home is pictured, along with drawings of the rooms, on the Allegheny County website. Until they sue the county, I can’t really believe it’s about anything more than money.

Man! It’s been a long time since I’ve posted. A lot has happened in the last 2 months. First, we bought a little company called Iconixx, and added them to the BSG Alliance platform. Second, I became an aunt again. Third, we launched an internal communications vehicle (known as The Buzz), which is published Monday/Wednesday/Friday. Fourth, I got elected to the Board of Directors of my homeowner’s association. I also continue to manage the four kids and cute husband. So, without coming right out and using those as excuses… Aw, heck. I’m using them as excuses.

Onward and upward, then!

A few weeks ago, I wrote an article in The Buzz based upon an email sent by one of my colleagues. He was explaining that a potential customer used Google to research him before a meeting, and how what the customer found provided instant credibility.

I followed up to his comments with this:

In today’s connected world, people use Google. When there are candidates to interview – we Google them. When there are prospects to approach – we Google them. When there are potential business partners to meet – we Google them. And the results of those searches often help us develop initial impressions about the people with whom we’ll be interacting. Good or bad, those impressions are lasting.

Smart companies – NGE companies – encourage their team members to build on-line identities. On-line identities are helpful for team members in a personal sense, since they can increase visibility in the ever-tightening labor market, and make someone more desirable to potential employers. They’re also helpful to companies, though. The more “Buzz” a company can build through the on-line identities of their team members, the stronger the company brand. On-line identities are a 1-2 punch – the personal credibility of the team member is coupled with the brand credibility of the company, thereby making the customer experience that much better.

At BSG Alliance, we encourage our team members to build on-line identities. Collaboration, especially on-line collaboration, is absolutely essential to our NGEness. In fact, in our Policies and Procedures document, we’ve dedicated a whole section to our external electronic communication. Here’s a key point:

We expect BSG Alliance employees to be active, vigorous and opinionated in their engagement with the public. This may mean asserting and defending strong points of view, taking provocative positions that are not the norm, and overall participating in the challenge we have of educating the industry about the changes to business that we are leading.

If you’re interested in how you can build your on-line identity and help build the BSG Alliance brand, start by determining where you’re starting. Career Distinction has a tool for determining your Google Quotient (GQ), which is a great place to start. If you’re curious, my GQ is 6.5 out of 10. I have some identity building to do…