A recent article on biz.yahoo.com outlines the risks of living a life online under your real name:
Do you give good Google? It’s the preoccupation du jour as Google hits become the new Q ratings for the creative class. Search engines provide endless opportunities for ego surfing, Google bombing (influencing traffic so it spikes a particular site), and Google juicing (enhancing one’s “brand” in the era of micro-celebrity). Follow someone too closely and you could be accused of being a Google stalker. Follow yourself too closely: Google narcissist.
But Googling people is also becoming a way for bosses and headhunters to do continuous and stealthy background checks on employees, no disclosure required. Google is an end run around discrimination laws, inasmuch as employers can find out all manner of information — some of it for a nominal fee — that is legally off limits in interviews: your age, your martial status, the value of your house (along with an aerial photograph of it), the average net worth of your neighbors, fraternity pranks, stuff you wrote in college, liens, bankruptcies, political affiliations, and the names and ages of your children. Former Delta Air Lines (dal.) flight attendant Ellen Simonetti lost her job because she posted suggestive pictures of herself in uniform on her “Queen of Sky” blog — even though she didn’t mention the airline by name. “We need Sarbanes and Oxley to come up with a Fair Google Reporting Act,” says Brian Sullivan, CEO of recruitment firm Christian & Timbers. “I mean, what the hell do you do if there is stuff out there on Google that is unflattering or, God forbid, incorrect?”
A long time ago, when I had a real job, I had a personal weblog. It didn’t take long for my employer to find that weblog and for it to become an issue at work. My blog never discussed work, but that really didn’t matter, it was still fodder for water cooler discussion.
If one looks really carefully, you can find things that I wrote in college, and even in high school, online in some of Google’s archives – some of those things I’m not so proud of.