In business and in life, we leave what’s called a paper trail. On the internet, it’s called often referred to as an electronic paper trail.

Most transaction we make, can be followed. Our bank statement shows how much money we have, and where we spent it. Credit/debit card records are similar. Our medical records are tracked. The IRS (Internal Revenue Service) has records of our earnings and taxes we paid, as does our State government. Electronic copies of all these records are often archived on hard drives, portable media storage, in vaults or secure rooms, and with the proper authorization, they can be viewed.

Credit bureaus have our financial information. With it, they assign a “credit score”.

Companies do a “security clearance” for some types of jobs. Whether they access this information or not, is unknown, however with our social security number, birth date and drivers license number, the electronic information that can be revealed is unlimited.

Although most of this is private information, the amount of public information produced by individuals can also be detrimental.

Blogs are a good example of public information. Blogs are published works of “art”, per se.

Today’s Lesson

A post on The Blog Herald inspired this topic. Written by Andrew G.R, and titled: Blogger Beware: Big Brother Is (Always) Watching,., he says:

More than 40% of large companies read employee e-mails and are hunting for you on the major social networks.

So we have to ask, who is reading our blogs, and who will be reading them in the future?

By “in the future”, I mean 10, 20 or 30 years from now.

Currently our employer could be reading our blog.

Future employers may also read our writings.

You may say, “I’m self employed and I am my own boss”.

But what happens if our current business can’t sustain itself in a flailing economy. What if we’re forced to work for “the man” again. Or what about our spouse. If they work, an employer could easily “Google” the family name and find our blog.

Have we written anything that could be detrimental to our spouse’s employment? Or, our children’s?

O.K., so you say, “Well I can delete my blog”.

Yes you can. But, what about others (our loyal readers) who have quoted us, or the person who plagiarized our work (but left our name intact). We can’t delete their blogs. We could email them and beg to have the articles deleted, but their blog may be in dormancy and their contact information could be invalid. Or is the original post(s) cached/saved in some internet “vault”? Maybe.

And….what did we write in the comment section of other blogs? Could that hurt us?

Then there’s the issue of emails and social networks. Are we projecting a different persona? Are we being more verbal? Exposing a side of ourself that our blog doesn’t project? Are we revealing trade “secrets”?

What if the day comes we (or our spouse) decide to enter into politics? Or our company goes global? Who will dig up our electronic paper trail?

It happens, and it gets people in trouble.

Today’s Assignment

Google yourself

Google you spouse’s name

Do you like what you find?

Could it hurt you a year from now? 10 or 20 years from now? How about 40?

Would you make your grandchildren proud?

How about your “public”?

Do you care?

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Look Who's Talking
  1. Babara –

    How timely is this post when I was thinking about a post on the blogging itself. I’m self employed so I won’t have to worry about an employer. Now, this is a great motivator for all of you to jump off the train and be on your own ๐Ÿ™‚

    As far as my spouse of kids, I’m writing from my heart and I hope that some day they will feel proud of me. That will be the biggest ROI for this investment of mine.


    Shilpan | successsoul.coms last blog post..How to Get Most Out of Life: Be Decisive!

  2. HarmonyNo Gravatar says:

    You make a good point. In fact, the way I live my life, the footprints I leave each moment, create waves that come to greet me in the future (or maybe the past.)
    Every action has an effect, every word significant.
    I have wondered at myself actually since I became a “blogger.” I want to participate on other’s blogs, and yet remind myself that words can be just chatter…
    Thanks for this insightful post.

    Harmonys last blog post..Harmony had Left the Building

  3. Barbara SwaffordNo Gravatar says:

    Hi Shilpan,

    Like you, we too are self employed, however we are in the construction industry…and we all know what’s happening with the housing market. Working for “the man” may be in my future. If my blogs get read, I feel comfortable with what I have shared.

    If you continue on the same path with your writings, you will forever make your family proud.

    Hi Harmony,

    It’s great to have you back. I just checked your blog post and see you were ill. Glad to hear you’re feeling better.

    Every action does have an effect, all we can hope for is that the effect is a positive one.

    Words can be chatter, but oh, how we can learn from them.

  4. J.D. MeierNo Gravatar says:

    In the information age, it comes with the turf.

    A saying comes to mind ….
    “A ship in harbor is safe — but that is not what ships are built for.”

    J.D. Meiers last blog post..Personal Memory House or Landscape

  5. Barbara SwaffordNo Gravatar says:

    Hi J.D.

    No truer words were spoken.

  6. Chase MarchNo Gravatar says:

    Definitely something to think about it. We all need to think about what we put โ€œout thereโ€ before we hit send or publish. But that being said, someone can always find something to get offended by. Itโ€™s a shame that people think this way.

    Iโ€™m not going to let fear stop me from blogging. I feel like itโ€™s almost like writing a newspaper or magazine article. We need to remember that once we publish something, it is extremely hard to take it back. Published works will always leave a trail, even if we have second thoughts and remove them from our blogs.

    That is why I think it is a good idea to write blog posts ahead of time. Reread them a day or two later before publishing them and really think about what they say and mean. It pays to be careful in this modern age.

    Chase Marchs last blog post..We Canโ€™t Be

  7. Barbara, how do I find out my spouse’s name? It would make it much easier to find her ๐Ÿ™‚

    I have mixed feelings on this. On the one hand, anything you say can come back to bite you, so it’s good to play it safe.

    But also, controversy sells. A recent post of mine, which was perceived by some to be anti-American, got nearly 8000 page views, more than all my other posts this month put together. Steve Pavlina just wrote the highly controversial “10 Reasons You Should Never Have a Religion” and got a flood of traffic.

    I’m willing to take the risk of being slightly controversial.

    BTW, your links have an extra “http.” Remember yesterday’s lesson? See, I do click links!

    Hunter Nuttalls last blog post..10 Reasons America Is Better Than Japan

  8. ChrisNo Gravatar says:

    I actually have a lot of awesome topics and issues I can write about but I am very conscious of the fact that if I do these juicy topics might have some adverse ramifications for the future.

    This is also the big reason why my work and my students are off limits.

    Chriss last blog post..7 Things That I Should Have Done Before Becoming A Father

  9. Barbara SwaffordNo Gravatar says:

    Hi Chase,

    “someone can always find something to get offended by” – so true. We definitely can’t please everyone.

    Blogging is very much like writing for a magazine or newspaper. We are our own editor and publisher.

    Should we let fear stop us from blogging? Absolutely not. We just need to blog responsibly and think past today’s post, today’s stats and today’s earnings.

    Hi Hunter,

    You’re right, controversy does sell, and normally a blogger does get more “hits” on controversial articles.

    I read the post your speaking of. Would I say it could “hurt” you in the future? Only if someone took parts of it out of context and didn’t include the next post that accompanied it.

    Thank you for pointing out the errors in my links. I fixed them.

    Now……..the spouse issue. Should we put out a “call” to all single girls to let them know you’re available? I wouldn’t mind playing matchmaker. That could be another great way to get additional traffic too. ๐Ÿ˜‰

  10. Barbara SwaffordNo Gravatar says:

    Hi Chris,

    By realizing there could be ramifications in the future, you are blogging responsibly.

  11. Barbara, lol…I’m seeing someone, so no thanks. Since you said “Google your spouse’s name,” I thought maybe you had a crystal ball.

    Hunter Nuttalls last blog post..10 Reasons America Is Better Than Japan

  12. Barbara SwaffordNo Gravatar says:

    No, no crystal ball. ๐Ÿ˜†

    But darn, I was anticipating being able to play “blogger” matchmaker.

    Hey, that just gave me an idea. Maybe I should start an online dating service for single bloggers. You think?

  13. MarelisaNo Gravatar says:

    Barbara: I agree with you that it’s amazing how much information can be gathered about you from the footprints you leave behind on the internet. Whenever you put yourself out there, whether you write an article for a magazine, publish a book, give a speach in front of a large audience, or publish a blog, you’re exposing yourself and leaving yourself open to all sorts of attacks. But I would much rather risk being attacked than refraining from living my life to its fullest or censoring everything I say, do, and write. I actually admire people who dare to publish something controversial, as long as it’s something they truly believe and aren’t just looking for publicity.

  14. Barbara SwaffordNo Gravatar says:

    Hi Marelisa,

    We do set ourselves up for attacks, don’t we? And as bloggers our footprints increase in size with each post we publish. Like J.D. said “it comes with the turf.”

  15. Debbie YostNo Gravatar says:

    When I was a senior in college, I did an internship with a Personal injury attorney. He told me something that I still live by today:

    Never put into writing anything you don’t want others to read. No matter how private you think it is, someone may see it.

    For me, it’s as simple as that. Obviously we expect and want others to read our blog, but I still will not put anything down that I wouldn’t want read.

  16. Barbara SwaffordNo Gravatar says:

    Hi Debbie,

    That’s great advice, and coming from an attorney, he probably knew what he was talking about, and saw instances where words came back to bite someone.

  17. Dr.CasonNo Gravatar says:

    I took your advice. I googled me and saw everything that I’d put out. It was exactly the way I remembered it.

    This is why I’ve always used my real name. My integrity is connected with my name. I talk about what I would talk about in public. I write what I would write with my patients, children and husband all looking over my shoulder.

    I also don’t ever blog about issues that are personal to someone else. I can analyze my own brain to the utmost and with this there is plenty to say. Why would I need to invade someone else’s world? It could only get you in trouble.

    Love this blog! Keep it up Barbara- you have great stuff!

    Dr.Casons last blog post..Thirty Minutes to a More Organized Life

  18. NaturalNo Gravatar says:

    oh yeah this is something i try to be careful with…i know my job checks all the websites i go to…sometimes i try to go back and they have blocked them. i know they read my blog so i try not to blog about work…i know other people who know me and my family read my blog too, so i can’t say too much there or about them…

    when you’re on the web or anywhere, you don’t just represent yourself, but those around you as well….whether you care or not, what you do is never just about you.

    Naturals last blog post..Something Quirky, Something Old, Something Blue

  19. Barbara SwaffordNo Gravatar says:

    Hi Dr. Cason,

    Thank you for your kind words.

    Isn’t amazing what we can find if we Google ourselves or someone else? I find there are a bunch of other Barbara Swaffords so I learn about them too. hehe

    Hi Natural,

    I like that: “whether you care or not, what you do is never just about you”. That’s so true.

    So you are in that “40% of employers” who watch the sites you’re visiting. It makes me wonder how many employers are doing the same but not revealing it to their employees.

  20. Pat RNo Gravatar says:

    When you put something out there it follows you. I always try to be respectful and conscious of what I post and give credit to those for information I reference.

    It shouldn’t make you fearful — if anything, more responsible.

    Thanks for another great post, Barbara.


    Pat Rs last blog post..Through the Eyes of a Child

  21. Barbara SwaffordNo Gravatar says:

    Hi Pat,

    I agree, what we write should not make us fearful. It’s just a reminder to blog responsibly.

    And yes, giving credit where credit is due is very important.

  22. “Hey, that just gave me an idea. Maybe I should start an online dating service for single bloggers. You think?”

    That’s a good idea in a way, but on the other hand you don’t want your ex to be blogging about you! Now I’m wondering about blogger dating etiquette. If you’re dating a blogger, do you have to subscribe to their blog? Do you have to always agree with their comments? Do you have to give more link love than usual? Somehow I don’t think Darren Rowse’s new book covers this!

    Hunter Nuttalls last blog post..Can One Country Really Be Superior To Another?

  23. From 1984 to now, Big Brother never goes away.

    I Googled myself a while back and there’s some guy named John Hoff who I think is a newspaper author that irritates a lot of people. LOL

    I think for the most part, I’m ok so far as to what people can find. I don’t mind them finding what they find.

    John Hoff – eVentureBizs last blog post..How To Buy A House Like A Real Estate Investor: Part 6 – Finding The Right Property

  24. Barbara SwaffordNo Gravatar says:

    Hi John,

    If Big Brother is always watching, we would be wise to play nice in the sandbox.

    If there’s another John Hoff, hopefully his work will help others find you. ๐Ÿ™‚

  25. BacnerNo Gravatar says:

    i never thought that blogs could become like an electronic paper trail.

  26. Barbara SwaffordNo Gravatar says:

    Hi Bacner,

    Welcome to the BWAB community,

    Yes, blogs do create electronic paper trails, no different than emails and other online correspondence.

  27. I think a lot of people don’t look at it that way. I’m lucky in that I share a name with a famous person which makes me practically ungoogleable unless you combine my name with specific keywords. This is good for personal reasons but can be a pain for my business.

    But anyway, I try to be pretty strict about what I put out into the public domain that is attached to my name. Even to the point of asking friends not to list my full name on pictures in online photo albums.

    Dosh Dosh posted recently about comments on other blogs and how they can come back and bite you in the rear and I think it’s really true. Just like you wouldn’t (shouldn’t) to to a function with a bunch of strangers and act like an idiot, you should try to avoid doing that online as well. You never know who’s going to be watching.

    VagabondetteVAs last blog post..How To Find Time For Yourself

  28. Barbara SwaffordNo Gravatar says:

    Hi VagabondetteVA,

    You bring up a good point about how others may be posting pictures, or your name in online photo albums. Some wouldn’t see a problem with that, but it could impact your business and/or reputation

    Yes, comments too, do follow us.

  29. […] in my archives is a post titled “Blogs, The New Electronic Paper Trail”. Having reread the article and the comments inspired me to revisit this […]