Your [online] Reputation Precedes You

Whenever someone tells me, “your reputation precedes you,” my immediate thought is I hope they mean that in a good way.

As we conduct more of our lives online, it’s important to understand that every piece of personal information that exists about us online has the potential to shape the way people perceive us. Emails, texts, photos, purchases and social media interactions all contribute to the assumptions people draw. Unfortunately, many of us are unaware of the cumulative portrait painted by the sum of all this online data and the potential consequences for us in the physical world.

As we look forward to Data Privacy Day this coming Saturday, January 28, Microsoft is releasing data from a survey of 5,000 people in the US, Germany, Canada, Ireland and Spain. In it we take a look at peoples’ online behaviors and examine how the way people act online has the potential to impact not only their reputation but that of others as well.

A few of the interesting findings include:

  • While 91 percent of people have done something to manage their overall online profile at some point, 67 percent feel in control of their online reputation, and 44 percent of adults actively think about the long-term consequences of their online activities.
  • 14 percent of people believe they have been negatively impacted by the online activities of others. Of those, 21 percent believed it led to being fired from a job, 16 percent being refused health care, 16 percent being turned down for a job, and 15 percent being turned down for a mortgage.

My biggest takeaway from the survey data is that consumers need more information about how to manage their online reputation and the privacy tools they can use to put their best digital foot forward. To this end, we’ve provided suggestions for online reputation management, which you can read about in my post on the Official Microsoft Blog and

About the Author
Brendon Lynch

Chief Privacy Officer, Microsoft

Brendon Lynch is the Chief Privacy Officer of Microsoft Corp., where he is responsible for creating and implementing privacy policy across the company, and influencing the creation of privacy and data protection technologies for customers. Brendon also serves on the Read more »