Millennials: Protect Your Privacy

All the images, personal information, and conversations that young people share via the Internet pose threats to their personal safety and financial and job security. Pro or con?

Pro: Cyber Vulnerability

In the age of the "overshare," the millennial generation should take a step back and consider the long-term impact of online behavior on their professional reputations. I’m not saying that they should censor themselves completely on social networks or delete their Facebook accounts, but privacy settings and whom they choose to "friend" should factor heavily into their decisions. Perhaps even more important, the information they choose to share on social networks about their work and life situations could have career-limiting—even career-ending—consequences.

The loss of sensitive company information through e-mail has long been a concern. In the past five years we’ve seen companies become even more worried about social networks. This is especially true because they hire increasing numbers of tech-savvy Millennials for their workforce. In a recent survey of large enterprises, we found that 53 percent of executives are highly concerned about the risk of information leakage via social networking sites.

Millennials should be sure to adhere to their company’s social networking policies. (If there are none, they should consult human resources or IT to make sure they’re not committing any unwritten cardinal sins of computing.) They should in any event be mindful of any content posted online, even if it’s just: "Had a rough day at work today" or "Have the most frustrating customer ever!" These types of simple slip-ups have cost people their jobs. In this economy, that’s not an easy loss to take.

Con: A Boundless Opportunity

Sharing on the internet doesn’t inherently lead to privacy infractions and a subsequent negative impact on your life, such as a job loss. In fact, generally putting yourself "out there" can often lead to professional opportunities you wouldn’t have otherwise found.

By smartly putting more information on the Web, you can, for example, improve your chances of finding—or being found for—a job. If you spend time connecting with current and former colleagues, maintaining those relationships, and keeping your virtual profiles up-to-date, you’ll increase your chances of being referred for a position or being proactively sought out.

Businesses are adopting both social media channels and Web-based collaboration tools to increase productivity and appeal to online-savvy job candidates. As such, it can be a detriment to candidates to avoid online engagement because businesses look to digitally sophisticated workers to serve as early adopters of new technologies and to drive further adoption and engagement across their employee base.

Common "street smarts" can be applied online, as they are offline. Don’t talk to strangers, don’t open your full wallet in public, don’t run around publicly intoxicated or scantily clad, etc. By putting those rules into a digital setting, you can end up better off than if you were to cut back drastically on your online presence.

Opinions and conclusions expressed in the Debate Room do not necessarily reflect the views of Bloomberg Businessweek, Businessweek.com, or Bloomberg LP.

Reader Comments

sue

Both comments are really saying the same thing. There are dangers and benefits in using the internet. Schools should have required courses teaching students how to safely use social networking sites, and the consequences of misuse.

All Together

What? "By smartly putting more information on the Web, you can, for example, improve your chances of finding--or being found for--a job."

500 million users--then why is unemployment so high? I prefer talking in person and my privacy. I don't want people knowing everything I do or say. Heck, sometimes I ask myself why I did something let alone having the whole world see. I agree with Pro, in my humble opinion.

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