Online reputation second chance

This post was originally published on AIIM's Expert Blogs by Serge Huber, CTO at Jahia Solutions

Whether you’re a Facebook user, a Twitter user or simply a collaborator using an intranet social network, you are now required to manage your online reputation. Long gone are the days where it was ok to have simple fun and speak your mind without giving a second thought. With recruiters using social networks to perform background checks, employers that may see in real-time everything you have shared or contributed, it is now a vital skill to be able to think about the long term consequences of the content that you contribute online. And sometimes, when you make a mistake, wouldn’t you like to be able to be able to simply “undo” or unpublish the content ?

Social networks, either in or outside of the corporate walls, are powerful tools that can create or destroy reputations rapidly. Marketers have already understood this quite well, and are becoming better and better at using social tools to reach potential customers in a customized and efficient way. But just as these professionals are marketing a brand, what are you doing to manage your own personal brand, both in your personal and professional life ?

As the internet is our legacy, we need to treat it as such. Everything we publish online is stored, backuped, crawled, indexed, and re-published elsewhere. Keeping control over content once it has been initially contributed may be difficult (but not impossible), and if it concerns your personal (or professional life), you should be especially careful with it. News media are full of stories of employees who lost their jobs after they posted something embarrassing on a public social media.

Despite all the care you might put into it, this doesn’t mean that you will always get it right. I have many times published something that I thought appropriate at one moment, and then later I realized that it wasn’t for a reason I had not considered previously. So what is really needed in my reputation management toolbox was a “second chance”. It should be possible and easy for content authors to be able to retract content, given that they of course have kept ownership of such content. They should also signal to whoever has copied, indexed or cached the content that it should be completely removed, even from backups.

This might sound like a pipe dream but it is actually more a reality than one may think. A lot of the major search engines, video distribution sites and other content providers now provides options to signal abusive content, or even have some kind of procedure to remove content from their servers. I’m not saying it is perfect by any means, but it is a step in the right direction. If you think about it, major music and video distribution networks actually use digital rights management (DRM) to control the distribution and availability of content. Maybe it’s time we use DRM for something really useful: privacy ?

It is of course a double edged sword. If you have the possibility to remove your own content, you might also be able to remove someone else’s content, for example using identify theft. But these cases should stay marginal, and it would be possible to prevent most of them with a simple review process.

With so much at stake for private persons, I think it would be really a good idea to make it possible for content authors to have more control over the content they are producing, whether they are a teenager on Facebook or a company blogger. After all, isn’t this what content management is all about ?

Serge Hubeer

Serge Huber
Serge Huber

Serge Huber is co-founder and CTO of Jahia. He is a member of the Apache Software Foundation and Chair of the Apache Unomi project management committee as well as a co-chair of the OASIS Customer Data Platform Specification.