The image you project: your digital identity

Do you post pictures, texts or videos of yourself on the internet? These leave traces that define your digital identity on the web. Do you know that once this information is on the net, it is almost impossible to remove it?


The image others have of you: your digital reputation

From the traces we leave on the net, what image do others have of us? Is it a positive or negative image? Would you be comfortable if a future employer saw it? The image that people create of you from the web is called your digital reputation.

The image we project of someone else

Have you ever posted on the internet pictures, videos or texts about your friends, teachers or employers? These posts can hurt and even have serious consequences on their reputation. In some cases, they could lead to accusations that you are cyberbullying and even legal action against you.

Right to one’s own image

Is it legal to post a picture of someone else? Many people do not know that using images (photos or videos) of someone else without their consent is illegal and you can be criminally charged for doing so.

  • You post on the web your year-end assignment so that your friends can read it. Your work is full of grammatical errors. Four years later, you apply for a job as an elementary school teacher and a member of the hiring committee finds the text.

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  • One of your friends takes a picture of you completely naked, sitting on the toilet. You think that the picture is funny and you post it on your Facebook page. Shortly after, you present yourself as a candidate in an election. Journalists quickly find the picture and publish it.
  • In a classroom, a student films his teacher without his or her knowledge and posts the video on YouTube.
  • On your CEGEP’s “Spotted” page, you question the professional qualifications of one of your teachers by sharing his or her comments on one of your assignments.
  • On Twitter, you conclude that someone is racist because they wrote “Canada belongs to Canadians”.  Yet, when you read the tweet again, you realize that the person was in fact denouncing that statement.
  • You write a comment on a picture where one of your girlfriends kisses another girl. In your head, you only want to make a joke by insinuating that she is a lesbian.
  • On your CEGEP’s “Spotted” page, you comment on one of your teachers, saying that he or she is the worst teacher you have ever had, that he or she is incompetent and doesn’t know the subject.
  • A classmate writes on Twitter that you were seen stealing from the cash register of the Student Café.

Managing one’s digital identity

Before posting personal content, ask yourself how it might be used. Be aware that its broadcast may be quick and huge. Once published on the internet, information can be difficult to remove.  This is all the more important if someone makes a copy.

You must control the broadcast of information that you leave on the internet. Limit any personal data that you post (contact information, email, photos, birthdate, etc.). Also, think before posting. Would you give access to your posts to a total stranger? No! Then, why risk doing so by posting on the internet, and risk that they all become public?


EN_Cyberréputation-3Digital reputation

In order to control the image that others might have of you, follow these recommendations:

  • Limit access to your social networks (Facebook, Twitter, Google+…) to your “real friends”, not to acquaintances or to the internet community at large.
  • Be familiar with the broadcast parameters of the sites you use and of the repercussions they have on the ease to find information on you. For example, keep the broadcast of a YouTube video in private or non-listed mode so that strangers cannot find it through a simple Google search.
  • On social networks, block displaying comments in your personal space without your permission. Also, do not authorize being identified in a picture without your permission.
  • Be familiar with the parameters and limits of the communication tools that you use. For example, Twitter only allows for 140 characters; this can limit your intervention or create unwanted implied statements.

The image that we project of others

Writing on a particular topic may involve your friends, your family, your school or your employer.

  • Make sure that what you write about others does not harm them.
  • Never react on the spur of the moment. Take time to think things over. Once a message is sent or published on the internet, you do not control its broadcast anymore.
  • Always keep in mind that messages sent on the internet do not always transfer the tone of a conversation well, even when using emoticons.
  • The line between being a critic and cyberbullying can be very slim.

The right to one’s image

When publishing a group or individual picture, all of these people are involved.

The rule is simple: never post pictures of others without their clear authorization. Also, never assume their authorization.

In order to check the image others have of you, it is recommended to do a search for information about yourself on the internet regularly (photos, comments, texts, etc.). Do a search on your name using a search engine such as Google, Bing, Yahoo, etc., or directly on social network sites.

If you find content that might harm your digital reputation:

  • Remove all questionable posts that you have posted yourself on your sites.
  • Review the security configuration/parameters of your profiles on all social media or social networks.
  • Communicate with those who posted about you by asking them to remove all content on you. If they refuse or ignore your requests, communicate with host website where the inappropriate content is and ask them to remove it.

If you are asked to remove an offending communication that you have posted, think about the impact such post would have on you if someone else had written it about you. In most cases, you will agree that it is better to remove it.

In all cases, remove from your sites pictures of others that were not authorized.

Finally, when posting takes on such a magnitude that there are serious psychological consequences, we then can talk about cyberbullying.

In all cases, do not keep this to yourself.  Talk to someone you trust: a parent, a friend or your college’s Student Services department.