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Microsoft Survey: Online 'Reputation' Counts

Looking for a new or better job? Maybe you should delete those old pictures from your Facebook page first. You remember, from that long-ago spring break that show you dressed in a lamp shade and little else.

A new Microsoft-funded survey of 2,500 recruiting professionals and consumers in four major developed nations found that online reputation is important -- very important.

The survey, conducted in December by Cross-tab Marketing Services, found that 70 percent of human resources (HR) and recruiting professionals in the U.S. had rejected job candidates due to what they found regarding those individuals online.

A whopping 79 percent of those HR professionals said they use online reputation information as part of their hiring process, while 85 percent said that "positive online reputation influences their hiring decisions at least to some extent."

The Cross-tab survey, however, found that job seekers are significantly less aware that negative information about themselves online could put the kibosh on that dream job.

"Only 7 percent of U.S. consumers surveyed believe information about them online affected their job search, [while] in the U.K., only 9 percent of consumers surveyed believe online information had any impact on their job search," according to the survey results.

Covering roughly 1,200 HR professionals and 1,200 consumers in the U.S., U.K., Germany, and France, Microsoft released the survey results a day ahead of Thursday's Data Privacy Day events. The events, called Data Protection Day in Europe, will be held in the U.S., Canada, and 27 European countries, according to organizers.

Results vary from nation to nation, the survey found. Notably, recruiters in the U.K. and Europe seemed less concerned with online reputations than their stateside counterparts.

For instance, in the U.K., only 41 percent of HR professionals said they had rejected job candidates based on information they found online, and in Germany that number was 16 percent, while France came up fourth with just 14 percent.

However, in Germany 13 percent of consumers thought information about them online could influence a job search, and in France that number was 10 percent.

"As people share more about their lives online through social networks, micro-blogging, photo sharing and other services, we at Microsoft see the issue of online privacy and control over personal data becoming a more important consideration," Chief Privacy Strategist Peter Cullen said in a post to the Microsoft Privacy & Safety blog Wednesday.

"People continue to prize safety, but they also want the ability to share information in ways that allow them to maintain control over how it's used and how it might impact their reputation," Cullen added.

Microsoft officials will participate in events marking the fourth annual Data Privacy Day at the Newseum in Washington on Thursday. Other events are planned for the San Francisco Bay area, and Brussels.

Stuart J. Johnston is a contributing writer at InternetNews.com, the news service of Internet.com, the network for technology professionals.