Questions students ask: Future employees and my social media

We’ve all either had an account hacked or our privacy invaded in some way. Generally, it’s not terribly harmful. Embarrassing, yes, harmful, no.

People believe that they have the freedom to do what they choose on the Internet. However, that’s simply not the case. “Mr. Oliphant, what if my name doesn’t show up on my social media account? What if I use an alias?” Students ask me this question in shock, possibly because they are hoping that their security hasn’t been breached. I can choose to be so naive.

Fact remains, most people sign up with an email or a phone number. Unless you have a burner phone you only ever use for social media, you have given provided a clue. “What about a random email?” Most email accounts require a secondary or back up email address in case passwords are misplaced. Another clue.

“I use an alias so I am safe.” Is that alias used on other accounts? If so, another clue. “What about if I never have my mobile data turned on?” What’s the point of having a phone then? Each time you do turn on the mobile data, it has to ping the cell tower in order to get signal thus… a clue.

“Can my IP address be tracked?” It may require more effort but yes. Each phone, laptop, or desktop computer has a mac address and an IP address. These identify your computer to help provide ongoing communication between servers, computers, and websites.

“What if I sign in from a different computer every time?” Then your account appears to come from many random places. That would show you are using public computers and wifi and that’s a whole other topic.

“So… how can we be safe online?” That’s a good question. There are methods to staying safe online; always use protected browsers, never use a computer without updated antivirus software, never use public computers for private matters like banking, and never, ever pick up hardware and plug it into your personal computer. Don’t do things online you would be embarrassed about if a loved one found out.

“What about pictures?” Everything you do online can be intercepted and seen. There is nothing that can be hidden online. The people with capabilities to hide things are good and it takes years to develop those skills.

“Why would employers look at our social media? Some of us aren’t that interesting.” Unless you’re talking about yourself that judgement needs to stop. If your employer wants to find your social media, they can. It is not out of their reach. Even if you hide things, servers can have information on them. Your webpages or profiles only share part of the information. Anything you do, see, like, favorite, post, retweet etc, is visible. And employers could base their selection on what they see.

The reason is because it is very easy to put up a front for a few hours during an interview. It is simple to be nice, genuine, caring, and respectful. However, it is another to do that over years. The image that employers get from years of disrespectful, uncaring behavior is a lot easier to believe than a few hours of the opposite. Of course, seeing no disparity between real life and your social media is always better, especially if its good.

Everything you do online is visible to someone. Whether it is the server admin, your IT department, your ISP provider, or your cell network provider, they can see what you’re doing and when you’re doing it. It a scary thought but that’s what we are dealing with in the age of tech we are living in.

I hope this has cast some light on just how safe we think we are. Scarily, we aren’t safe or private. Tell me about an incident you’ve had dealing with employers or employees about their social media.

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