Module: Reputation



When we think about our online privacy, one of the key questions is how we want to appear to other people when they see information about us online. Privacy is a set of personal decisions about when we want to share infor-mation, why we want to share it, and which people we want to share it with. Our reputations, on the other hand, are how we appear to other people and what beliefs they then form about us. If we make thoughtful privacy de-cisions, we’re in the best possible position to put good information out there about ourselves that will influence people to have good opinions of us—although it’s not possible to control fully everything that’s out there about us online.

  • SWBAT identify the audiences of different types of online communications.
  • SWBAT consider what information they want to appear when they Google their name.
  • SWBAT recommend ways to respond to Internet content they do not like.
  • SWBAT brainstorm ways to approach others about online content that concerns them.


  • Handout: “What Should You Do”
    • Note: This handout is included in the full document which has been linked at the bottom of this page.

Timeline [30 min]

  • Audiences - 10
  • Researching Your Reputation - 5
  • Responding to Negative Information - 5
  • Responding to Complicated Information - 10

Audiences - [10 min]


  • Think about a secret you have about yourself. You won’t have to share this with anyone or write it down, just think about that secret in your mind. Now think about how many people in this room know the secret. Now think about how many people in this school know the secret. Now think about how many people in the State of Massachusetts [or your current state] know the secret. Now think about how many people that you have never met know the secret.
  • Now imagine that you had to write down that secret on a piece of paper and one random person in this class would get to read it. It is one week later: How many people in this room would now know the secret? How many people in this school would now know the secret? How many people in the State of Massachusetts would now know the secret? How many people that you have never met would now know the secret?


  • You need to think about who is likely to see a certain piece of information about you (the audience for that information). Only after you have a sense of audience can you pick the information you feel com-fortable sharing and keep everything else private. An audience is made up of a person or a group of people that can access a particular piece of information.
  • With new technologies today, audiences can grow very quickly. Because of this potential for rapid au-dience growth, it’s difficult—if not impossible—for you to know or to limit the audience for your online information and activities. While it’s great that audiences can grow quickly when you want to share your work with a lot of people, it’s not when this happens with information that you want to keep private.
  • Unfortunately, private information—especially embarrassing information—is often exciting to people when they see it, so once this type of information is out there online, it can be very difficult to control who sees it next.
  • Whenever you share information online (even just directly to one person, like in a text or private message), you should be prepared for the possibility that it may well spread beyond the audience you intended to reach.


  • Content on Social Media
    • When you post a status update, picture, or other information on social media, who is your intended audience?
      • (Depends on your privacy settings, but it could include just your closest friends, or be broad enough to include anyone who uses that social media platform, or anyone who searches for you online. But no matter who the audience is, information can be copied and posted somewhere else, or someone can take a screenshot)
    • Who is your intended audience when you post on someone else’s Facebook wall for example, or when you add any other type of content to another person’s social media account?
      • (This will depend on both your and their privacy settings, but often it will go to their friends, which will include people you don’t know - might include their family members, or teachers/employees at your school.)
  • Messaging
    • When you send a message (text, email, private/direct message on social media), who is your intended audience?
      • (Your audience is the person you’re sending it to, but be careful—others might see it as well.)
    • How would it be possible for your message to reach people other than the person you sent it to?
      • (Through screen shots, forwarding, and in-person phone sharing, to name a few.)

ASK “What are some of the situations where maintaining a good online reputation might be important?”

  • College applications
  • Job applications
  • Making new friends

Researching Your Reputation - [5 min]

Choose a celebrity (movie star, musician, etc.) that will be familiar to the students. Google their name and ex-amine a few of the items that come up. Also explore their Facebook page or Twitter feed. After spending a few minutes, ask two students to act out a hypothetical interaction between the celebrity and a fan.


  • “How does _________ feel encountering someone that knows a lot of information about them?”
  • “How would they feel if that information was incorrect?”
  • “How many people can access this information about ________?”
  • “How can ________ control what information about them is available online?”


  • People you meet will use search engines to find more information about you. What they find, good or bad, is going to impact what they think about you. If you want to be able to have control over how they perceive you, it is important for you to know what information they are likely to see.
  • These people include future employers and college admissions officers. Over a third of college admissions officers in 2013 said they Googled applicants and “consider the public social media accounts of applicants as fair game.” Colleges aren’t required to inform applicants whether or not they use information they find online.1


Brainstorm three things you would want to come up when someone Googles your name. How many of these do you think actually will come up?
  • Share with a partner.


  • Raise your hand if you have Googled your own name. What did you see? Were you able to find information about yourself, or are there other people in the world that share your name? What pictures come up?
    • Note: Ask them if this changes with a small piece of personal information (e.g., hometown, school).
    • Note: You can also ask students to Google themselves in class, if computers are available.


  • When you Google yourself, ask three questions. 1. What comes up first? 2. Are you proud of this information? 3. Is your name on any lists?
  • Think about someone reading the search results but without clicking the links: What kind of impression do you think they would get about you?

Responding to Negative Information - [5 min]


  • “If you find embarrassing information about yourself when you search for your name online, can you do something about it?”
  • “What are some examples of content you might not want others to see?”


  • You are sometimes able to overcome embarrassing search results. The best way to get unwanted results about you pushed down onto the second page is to start creating and managing content about yourself that reflects you in a positive light. You can do this by creating social media profiles (Facebook, LinkedIn, Twit-ter) when appropriate, starting a blog, or registering a website based on your name. You can also contact the person or company where that embarrassing information is posted, and you can ask to have it taken down, though they might refuse and it might take a long time.
  • Fewer than 10% of Google users ever go to the second page of search results, so the first few results are much more important.2


Take that list of three things you would want to come up on your first page you brainstormed earlier. What is one way you could work to make these show up above any embarrassing search results?


Sometimes the bad results can be an inaccurate representation of you. You can be misidentified or misquoted or a mistake from your past can be recorded online for years to come.

  • Many countries are wondering if their citizens have a “right to be forgotten,” and whether they can ask sites like Google to remove irrelevant or defamatory content. This can be valuable for those who have such content posted about themselves, but it can also be used to cover up wrongdoing or censor jour-nalists.


  • What mistakes might you want to be forgotten? Are they important or relevant?
  • How would you feel if someone put false information about you online?
  • In the United States, the First Amendment grants citizens the right of free speech, or the right to commu-nicate ideas without the threat of government retaliation or censorship. Does this “right to be forgotten” violate free speech?

Responding to Complex Information - [10 min]

Pass out “What should you do?” worksheet. In pairs, students should discuss the scenarios on the worksheet, and come up with two strategies, as well as thinking about the potential consequences of their actions.



  • What should you do when someone posts content about you that you don’t like?
  • What should you think about before posting content about someone else?

Extensions/Additional Resources


* This module, including accompanying handouts, is based on the framework found in the Volunteer Privacy Educators Program Curriculum developed by the Center for Law and Information Policy at Fordham University. Specific excerpts or quotations from the Volunteer Privacy Educators Program Curriculum (“CLIP Curriculum”) appear in quotation marks and are cited in the modules and handouts where they appear. The CLIP Curriculum is available online in two parts (1) Lesson Plan Outlines, (“CLIP Curriculum Lesson”) and (2) Teacher Training Manual, (“CLIP Curriculum Teacher”).
1. Schaffer, R. (2014, November 20). Kaplan Test Prep Survey: Percentage of College Admissions Officers Who Visit Applicants’ Social Networking Pages Continues to Grow — But Most Students Shrug. Retrieved from
2. The Value of Google Result Positioning. (2013, June 7). Retrieved from

Release Date 
March, 2016