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Turning Privacy on its Ear

I’ve written about the privacy risks involved with social sharing a few times since we launched Blog Confidential earlier this year. When we fall into one-click languor and dull our sense of propriety in an online routine that rewards drawing attention to ourselves, it is easy to forget that some information brings exploitable clarity to our real-world identities.

That amusing psychological profile you filled out to determine your survivability in the upcoming zombie apocalypse? The result may have pegged you as Daryl Dixon-esque (congratulations), but also saved your answers—including information that might prove useful in an identity challenge context—in a database somewhere. Oops.

Vigilance is needed when navigating the digital paths that meander throughout the ether. Knowing what you should and should not click, how much you should or should not share, and understanding which vendors operate with respect for consumer privacy is important. It’s also important to know how to better protect yourself when you do have to share.

But what if, rather than retreat into a narrow band of digital existence, you were to turn privacy on its ear by hyper-sharing… with an eye toward creating a distinct online identity that runs parallel to your true self?

That’s the thought I had while reading Naveen Jain’s column Brand Yourself for a Better Life on Forbes.com. Jain argues that, as individuals, we should be taking full advantage of social tools like Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, YouTube and all the others (I haven’t had time to get addicted to yet) to create distinctive identities—personal brands—that help us to stand out online.

Jain offers a caution:

"These changes do have ramifications for personal privacy. The increased willingness on the part of individuals to share information—as well as the digital footprint we leave behind as we traverse the Internet or use our cell phones—produces data about us that can be used by others. Combine that with publicly available data records—everything from marriage licenses to traffic violations and credit reports—and you have a deep wellspring of information about each one of us. We are all aware of the dangers of the government overreaching into the private lives of its citizens or consumer concerns each time Facebook alters its privacy rules."

But if public records and vast marketing databases already contain nuggets of information about us, is it possible to strategically build a complementary digital brand that overwhelms our analog selves? Rather than sharing reactively to games and forms and surveys, instead take the initiative and aggressively generate an online resume that tells the world who you are—on your terms.

It’s a thought. I’d like to hear yours.

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