Does the name Ashley Payne sound familiar?
If yes, that’s because you’ve probably read about her before: Payne, a teacher in Winder, Georgia, made news for being fired when she posted a picture of herself holding a glass of wine in one hand and a pint of beer in the other on social media. Although this picture was posted on her personal social media account, it didn’t matter. Apparently, a parent saw her social media post and wasn’t too pleased with Payne drinking on her private time and posting about it on social media. The unsatisfied parent went ahead to complain to the school board, and this cost Payne her job.
Payne was soon summoned to the office of the head teacher at the school she worked and the interaction went something like this:
Head teacher: Do you have a Facebook page?
Head teacher: Do you have any pictures of yourself up there with alcohol?
Head teacher: Resign or be suspended.
Now, we can start to debate what Payne’s mistake was: Having a Facebook page? Billions of people do! Drinking alcohol? Billions of people do, too? Posting personal pictures on her personal Facebook page? Well, billions of people do too!
Payne’s mistake was simple: not taking her privacy, especially in an online and social media world, seriously. And it cost her her job! In an interview with a publication, she said:
“I just want to be back in the classroom, if not that classroom, a classroom. I want to get back doing what I went to school for, my passion in life.”
In Payne’s case, teaching is her passion — her career… her dream. Yet, a simple privacy mistake cost her more than she had anticipated.
Like Payne, countless people have lost their jobs due to easily-avoidable privacy mistakes. Countless people have lost their career. Don’t make the following privacy mistakes in 2018, or they could cost you your career:
1. Not Carefully Considering Stuff You Put Online
When it comes to the Internet and social media, it is important to realize that nothing is truly private. Of course, there are privacy measures and checks and balances that can be taken to ensure your privacy, and those will be discussed in this article, but it is important to realize that once it is online, no matter how apparently private, there’s a possibility that it could be seen by anybody and everybody.
Multibillion dollar ecommerce sites, that have full-time staff dedicated to ensuring the security of their platform, have been hacked — often resulting in loss of billions of dollars and even entire businesses being shut down. If that could happen, know that there’s at least a chance that what you put online — even with good privacy settings — could come out into the open.
In Payne’s case, further research shows that she actually had privacy settings in place, but a friend without privacy settings enabled re-posted her picture, and things spiralled from there.
3. Adding People from Professional Circles as Friends
Stories abound of people being axed from their jobs due to posting something on social media that a colleague or a superior who was friends with them on social media found in violation of company policy.
No matter how close you think you are, it might be a good idea to reconsider adding people from professional circles as friends on your personal profiles — even with strong privacy settings, they will still be able to see your updates since they are friends, and, depending on how they react, things could get out of control.
4. Not Being Aware of Your Social Media Privacy Settings
Many people are not aware of their social media privacy settings — or even that such exist. Big mistake!
If you are not aware of your social media privacy settings, or have not personally configured it, it might be a good idea to stay off social media. Anything you post on social media can be seen, shared or distributed — depending on your privacy settings — and this could have an immediate effect on your job as well as your future career prospects.
5. Ignoring Online Accounts and Profiles You’ve Long Stopped Using
When it comes to taking care of privacy settings, it is easy to focus only on online and social media accounts you are currently actively using. This is ignoring the big picture. It is important to know that when being considered for sensitive new roles or a new job, a complete background check is likely to be done on you. In other words, insensitive posts you’ve made years ago (that you didn’t think much about) could surface, and they could threaten your career. The solution is to first do this background check yourself, clean up what needs to be cleaned up, tighten your privacy settings and be careful about what you’ll be posting going forward.
6. Being Too Private to the Point of Appearing Nonexistent
Yes, there’s such a thing as being too private. With all the news about people being axed from their jobs due to posting private stuff, it’s easy to want to toe a line of not having an online presence at all. That could be a big, career-threatening mistake. According to hiring managers, when they try to look up a potential job candidate and find absolutely nothing — in essence, a “ghost” — they immediately send the candidate’s resume to the bottom of the pile.
In other words, don’t go totally incognito; instead, have a presence and keep it completely protected.
7. Not Taking Measures to Secure Your Access, Especially on Public Networks
In a world rife with hackers, eavesdroppers and malicious people waiting to snoop in on your online activities, it will be a very dangerous mistake not to educate yourself about measures to protect yourself and encrypt your data whenever you access the internet — especially on public networks. This is even more important if you are allowed access to sensitive information on your company network.
“Using public Wi-Fi without a VPN can be very dangerous. While you innocently just want to get some work done on the commute, or at the cafe, for all you know someone could be eavesdropping. It doesn’t have to cost much. It could even be a script kiddie,” says John Mason from The Best VPN.
8. Ignoring Your Organization’s BYOD Policy
Many organizations have a BYOD policy, often ensuring that sensitive portions of the organization’s network are only accessible through the company’s own devices whose privacy settings have been fine-tuned to prevent security issues. Unfortunately, a lot of employees ignore these policies and go ahead to access sensitive parts of the company’s network on personal devices. Not only could this pose a threat to your company that could cost you your job, but it could actually result in legal action being taken against you.
9. Not Taking Adequate Measures to Secure Your Computer
Many people wrongly assume that all it takes to protect access to their computer is a secure password. This is not necessarily the case. If, due to not taking adequate measures to secure your computer (for example, not installing an antivirus, an anti-malware and a firewall), your computer is compromised, someone from another part of the world could literally be seeing what you’re doing every time you are connected to the Internet. A great case study is the infamous eBay hack that resulted in over 100 million accounts being compromised. This was only possible because access to the computers of three key eBay employees had been compromised.
10. Not Educating Yourself on the Right Email Habits
So you need training on the right way to use email, eh? Uhmm, yes! While many people believe using email is as simple as knowing how to use email clients, it’s not that simple. Some of the most common security issues occur via email, and this could threaten your career prospects. This includes phishing attempts (which can be used to steal sensitive company-related credentials as well as personal information from you) as well as the fact that not being weary about which link you click in emails could result in malware (or worse, ransomware!) being installed on your computer, or on company servers. This could have serious, far-reaching consequences.
11. Not Following Password-Usage Best Practices
In an interview of 27 cybersecurity experts, when asked what the most common cybersecurity mistakes were, by far the number one mistake relates to password usage. In essence, as an employee, if the password is compromised, sensitive information about you or your organization could be accessed and that can have far-reaching consequences.
Some common expert suggestions include:
- Use a secure password generator that automatically generates and stores your passwords.
- Don’t reuse your passwords on other sites.
12. Not Protecting Your Location Information
Mobile phone apps, computer applications, websites and social media sites are constantly asking for location information now. If allowed access, many of these websites and apps will tag your messages and activities with your location. This isn’t necessarily good. Cases abound of people having lost their jobs due to failing to protect their location information.