I just sent this letter to the editor in response to this Washington Post Jobs section column about how what you put in online profiles could have professional repercussions:
To The Editor:
While Mary Ellen Slayter’s Sunday Career Track column “Maintaing an Online Profile – and Your Professionalism” (2/12/06) makes the important point about the importance of minding what information about ourselves we make public on the internet, it ignores some important details about exactly how these services work.
On one of the services mentioned, Friendster, users can safeguard their privacy by preventing the general public from viewing their profile, and allows users to choose how much private data is available to friends-of-friends and users of the service. On another popular service, TheFaceBook, only fellow website members can view complete profile data.
Also, social networking websites aren’t just professional liabilities – they can be powerful tools for professional advancement as well. The service LinkedIn is specifically tailored for professionals hoping to make new contacts in their field. The company Affinity Engines, Inc. has sold their Friendster-like software to a number of colleges and universities (including my alma mater the University of Michigan) to provide their alumni a powerful networking tool to use for career networking, relocation advice, and also more conventional personal applications.
Like many emerging technologies, social networking software can produce new liabilities, but also new opportunities for professional and personal networking.