Have you ever “Googled” yourself? If not, you definitely should! From your home computer, go to www.google.com, type your name in the search box, sit back, and be amazed at the number of times your name appears in some way on the web. Click on all the links that are associated with your name. But don’t stop there. Go to www.facebook.com, www.twitter.com, and www.myspace.com; search for yourself on both of those sites, also. These are not the only social networking sites, just the two most popular. If you find that you are being impersonated online, what steps should you take next?
As always, contact your UniServ director to get advice specific to your situation. However, depending upon the circumstances, the following advice is germane.
Double-check these sites to make sure you're not a victim of online impersonation.
First, contact the social networking site where the false profile exists. Both MySpace and Facebook have rules that prohibit the creation of false profiles. Both sites will investigate claims of online impersonation and will remove false profiles quickly. The one thing you will not be able to find out is probably the one thing you will most want to know: the identity of the impersonator. Neither site will give this information without a subpoena, which can only be obtained if a lawsuit or criminal charges have been filed.
Second, you should tell your school administration about the existence of the false profile. Chances are that if a false profile exists, it has been created by a student and has been shared by that student with his or her classmates and online “friends.” Chances are also great that a parent may soon stumble upon the false profile and, depending upon the content, may bring the profile to the attention of your school administration. If you have already informed your administration of the existence of the false profile and the steps you have taken to have the profile removed, you can avoid a district investigation that focuses on whether or not you are the creator of the profile and whether or not the information obtained in the profile is true.
In conclusion, although the most prudent advice would be for education employees to avoid social networking sites altogether, this is not realistic advice, especially for younger employees who are products of the MySpace and Facebook age. Therefore, for those who want to take advantage of this means of communication, please be aware of the pitfalls that exist and use good judgment when deciding to publish something about yourself or to become “friends” with someone online.
Finally, for both those who are savvy users and those who didn’t know the existence of such sites until reading this article, please do occasional checks of these social networking sites, as well as searches of the Web, in general, to discover what information is linked to your name. If you discover something false, contact your UniServ director for advice on how best to handle the situation.
By Jacquie Shipma, former manager of legal services and human resources