online personal reputation management/branding/privacy w unusual name
December 30, 2014 5:40 PM   Subscribe

What some things related to my online profiles that I may need to consider with an extremely unusual first name + last name?

I am recently married and am changing my name from a fairly common last name to very unusual name. Previously I've always enjoyed the small amount of extra privacy that is intrinsic to having a common name. There are over 100 facebook results for my old first name +last name and several other linkedin profiles in my geographic area.

My new married last name is extremely unusual especially in the US where I live. It is somewhat more common in the originating country, but still not popular. Because the last name is so rare, I believe based on some googling that I may be the only person in the US (and world) with this combination first name + last name.

What some things related to my online profiles that I may need to consider that I would not have thought about before?
I have already changed my name on facebook and linkedin and reviewed my privacy settings for each site. I noticed that since my linked in profile is somewhat public, when googling my name my photo appears at the very top of the page. My wedding registries appeared and I did not want them to, so I removed them, but I really don't want something like that to happen again.

What do I need to know for managing my identity online with an extremely uncommon name?
posted by seesom to Computers & Internet (14 answers total) 15 users marked this as a favorite
I have a very unusual name. I don't register any social media with my real name. Even with privacy settings, you'd be surprised what gets through. I also use a generic email address and name for all registrations and online shopping. I keep my email address with my real name only for personal correspondence and banking.
posted by quince at 5:45 PM on December 30, 2014 [4 favorites]

Don't use Facebook to leave comments on websites, or even public Facebook pages. Any of that activity will be pulled up in your Google search results.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 6:00 PM on December 30, 2014 [3 favorites]

maybe buy a domain with your unusual name and put the information you do want (what you would have on your page publicly available) there so that becomes the first returns for your name. My son's combination is unique and he uses his middle name online for more anonymity.
posted by viggorlijah at 6:00 PM on December 30, 2014 [2 favorites]

Or, alternatively, actively manage your online presence. Assume that anything you have out there will be findable, and groom it. Keep your LinkedIn up to date. Keep an active Twitter presence. And so forth. Drop me a line if you want more detail; I'm not shy about using myself as an example one-on-one.
posted by chesty_a_arthur at 6:04 PM on December 30, 2014 [3 favorites]

Seconding chesty_a_arthur's suggestion to manage. I have an unusual first name + last name combo so I am pretty easy to find. I had some things online that I could not get rid of and when I started a job with a bit of public interest, I started creating content to drown out other stuff. It's still findable but it no longer comes up on the first page of a google search.

And yes, do not leave comments etc with your facebook login in groups. Even though you have changed your name, you can still be found. eg do a google images search of your new or old name and you might find thumbnails of your profile picture from comments you've left.

Last thing I can think of to check is your facebook name. I don't mean your name on your profile page but the URL of your page will be something like www/ You can change the name part otherwise people going to your fake name will still see your real one in the URL.
posted by stellathon at 6:11 PM on December 30, 2014

I am the only person in the world with my name. Or at least the only person on the internet. I am one of only about thirty people in the world with my surname, so the only results that pop up for surname-only searches are my relatives. And most of them don't have much of an internet presence, so in the first three pages of a google search for my surname, there's like two links to stuff for other people, and all the rest are me. So yeah, I understand this issue. That said, it's not really a problem if you are careful, and in many ways its an advantage.

I use pseudonyms for everything personal (metafilter, forum postings, comments, likes, youtube). I use my own name only when I want the results to show up for my professional acquaintances. I lock down privacy settings as tight as they go on anything borderline where I use my real name (e.g. twitter, Google Plus, where I post mostly stuff I'm fine with being associated with my professional profile, but also sometimes e.g. cat pictures, which I don't want to turn up as the first result if a hiring committee googles me.)

I've only screwed up once, and it wasn't too bad, fortunately. A comment I made on a news site displayed the first part of my email address (up to the @) with it, and that is my surname (one of the benefits of having an unusual name is you can get the "surname" or "surname" only usernames on most social media), which are great for when you do want things to be linked to your professional identity. So yeah, the comment wasn't embarrassing, but it also wasn't well thought through, and for a while it was the top hit on my name on Google. But it's filtered down to page two now. It's not too hard to bury things by creating lots more links associated with your name.

The great thing is that it's very easy to deliberately get stuff to be the top results for your name. So you can cultivate your online identity really easily. I don't actually bother to have a personal webpage, because if people google my name, they get roughly the equivalent of one. All the links I would want to put on a homepage just show up. That's kind of nice.
posted by lollusc at 6:13 PM on December 30, 2014 [3 favorites]

If you're concerned about new things popping up that you didn't expect, you can set up a google alert for your name.

I just do a search every so often and see if there's anything new.

I also like the idea of having a personal website with your name that you can customize. I personally have a few websites with hobbies and such (most hobbies are somewhat related to my field and I guess if someone doesn't want to hire me because I tattoo fruit and sell the prints or I write about marketing for tattoo shops, then I don't want to work for them anyway).

Next, agreed when being careful about commenting on sites using social plugins. If you want to comment, create an account where you can specify a name.

Sometimes what people tag and such shows up under images. I have a few things from some people's web albums. Plus any comments you make on public forums on Facebook can show up - such as RSVPing to events. Oh and don't forget about YouTube/Google+ crap too!

Also, in general you may just get what happens to me which is I search for " Crystalinne Lastname" and google says "Showing results for 'Crystalline Lastname' " and 'corrects' my name. In that case sometimes people won't even find info about you right away.
posted by Crystalinne at 7:50 PM on December 30, 2014 [2 favorites]

All good advice above. One more small thing: when you check your handiwork by searching for yourself, try an alternate search engine like Duck Duck Go too that will get you out of your Internet bubble. Results may differ quite a bit from Google.
posted by Gotanda at 8:00 PM on December 30, 2014

I think that if this was me, I'd use my new singleton name as as my "professional" name, and begin to set up various accounts under that new name. Even if you have no plan to use them, it would be good to own the Twitter/tumblr/etc accounts that correspond to your new name. I'd also look into snagging relevant domain names - I don't mean buy every possible combination - but there may be 4-6 domains that are obvious choices. The idea is to protect yourself from anyone who might want to spoof your identity.

In addition, I'd think about perhaps keeping my older accounts and usernames for "personal" use. This may require some thought and craft, but (for instance) only use new photos on your professional presence, and use older photos (maybe your hair is colored or styled differently) or even remove photos or - if you want to be sneaky - ask a friend if you can borrow a few of their photos.

Or you may wish to disable your old accounts and create a new set of personal accounts based on some new concept.
posted by doctor tough love at 8:05 PM on December 30, 2014 [1 favorite]

I've also got a distinctive name. I go through online search sites like Spokeo, Intelius, etc. every six months and make sure I'm removed from their search results. Here's a guide for doing just that. Otherwise, it's very easy to figure out where I live.
posted by culfinglin at 8:32 PM on December 30, 2014 [7 favorites]

2nding not using your new name online if you care about privacy. Every loose crumb you drop is going to get picked up, and there's very limited control over where it ends up. There's no hiding anything with a perfectly unique name.
posted by cotton dress sock at 9:58 PM on December 30, 2014

I have a consistent online presence as Tchemgrrl that is separate from my internet-unique name. If I had privacy concerns beyond "coworkers don't need to see my knitting blog" I would be even more stringent about this.

Overall, though, I consider my unique name to be an asset not a liability. Childhood friends and new colleagues can find me easily. I don't get harassing calls from creditors looking for a name twin, and I avoid awkward conversations about that other Jane Smith who was a felon/porn star/Westboro baptist spokesperson.
posted by tchemgrrl at 6:13 AM on December 31, 2014

I am the only person in the world with my first name + last name (everyone who has my last name is related to me).

I would advise you to never use your new real name on the internet, at all, ever, except maybe for professional things like a very clean linked in profile that uses privacy rules to not show strangers too much about you.

I idiotically used my real name on the internet when I was younger and stupider and I am still trying to clean this up. I wish someone had told me that having an unusual name means you should never ever do this.
posted by millipede at 7:23 AM on December 31, 2014 [3 favorites]

Although, I have a very common name but a bit of a cagey person by nature. Time to time I will do searches under my real name and general location using the sites listed above. If I do find any related info then I do my best to follow up and have it removed. For all my internet friends I will use my pseudonym and ask everyone to call me that during convos. I'm also on a variety of other forums and sites but they are all decentralized w/unique handles.

For FB I've added only the extreme basic info and not joined any networks because I didn't want my name to pulled up if anyone did a overall search for school district. LinkedIn is a bit of a challenge since it's supposed to be an online resume and I don't have a account. If I did I'd limit so that search engine's couldn't index my profile and let it only be viewable by other members. I have a bunch of throwaway emails so it's rare for me to ever use my irl name unless it's for school.
posted by chrono_rabbit at 7:39 AM on December 31, 2014

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