who are you onlineAnswering the question "who are you?" has never been simple. What defines me as a human being? My job, my stamp collection (kidding), my marital status? What comes first: the fact that I'm a beloved husband, the kind of clothes I wear or the type of car I drive? Usually the answer relates to others, for instance if you are at a party at a friend's house. But on the web, the answer is easy: the identity of the person is defined by the digital footprint in search engines such as Google and 123people.

Categories of digital identity

In fact, who you are online - your digital identity - consists of three categories: your professional, personal and private digital footprint. Let me explain. Your professional footprint is easy to understand, it relates to who you are as a 'worker bee': you are a banker, a physician, a carpenter, a freelancer or Justin Bieber. It says so on your LinkedIn bio, your blog or on the company website.

Personal hobbies

'Personal' refers to your hobbies that are linked to your persona: maybe you are a soccer fan and thus a active (profiled) member in an online community around that topic. Or you are an amateur photographerwith an evergrowing public portfolio on Flickr or - soon to be renamed Google Photos - Picasa.

Private facts

'Private' is well, er, private and refers to all the data that makes up who you are - not in terms of interests, but in terms of facts. For example you are a husband and the father of two daughters (linked on Facebook), you live at this address (according to the phone book), this is your date of birth (public records) and this is your annual income(publicly accessible information if you happen to live in Sweden!).

Three pillars of online privacy

The level of online privacy you maintain in all three categories, again consists of three important pillars:

  1. Searchability: Which and how much information can be found with your full name in the three different categories mentioned before?
  2. Publicness: Think about the necessity of publishing this information online, before ánd after. Does that information really need to be on the web, or should it rather stay offline?
  3. Removability: How easy is it to remove the information? Is it on your own blog, website or domain? Or is it 'owned' by a company, your employer or a private person who runs a forum? How about the privacy settings and policy there?

Who are you online?

Now I'm curious. Who are you online? What level of privacy do you uphold in these categories? How do you keep yourself safe from any harm on the web? Have your say in the comments below!

Don't forget, if you use your full name, it might become part of your digital identity...


Image: Roo Reynolds/Flickr