One of my coworkers is single and has expressed interest in being fixed up with one of my friends. I was very excited about this because I think they could potentially be a good match. I told this to my friend and he was interested in seeing a picture of her. When I googled her name, some naked images appeared in the search results. None of these pictures show her face but they do link to her Facebook picture so it’s not completely anonymous. I don’t know if she’s aware that these pictures exist online. Should I be the one to tell her?
You will never believe this, but I have been stewing over a PG-13 version of this X-rated scenario. In college, about 15 years ago, I was part of a research team. The professor took it upon himself to post individual pictures of each person involved in this group. Apparently, he thought the world needed to be made aware of each specific undergrad who was reading through newspaper articles to find out what the temperature was on days that riots occur. In any case, if you search my name, this ancient photo comes up. It is an innocent enough head and shoulder shot, except that there is a yellowish hue to the photo, I am wearing a yellow tank top, and I have a jaundiced look to my skin, as it is. If you glance really quickly at the photo (or creepily think about the photo too much), it kind of looks like….well….like I am not someone you would want to hire for the kind of job I will be seeking in the future.
To answer your question simply, YES you should be the one to tell your co-worker about what you found. It sounds like you are a person who will not totally embarrass her or abuse the information, and obviously this is a delicate issue. In this particular case, since her face is not visible, it could very easily be someone else, but made to vilify her. Or there could be a different explanation entirely. Regardless of the explanation, she needs to be made aware that a search of her name is linked to naked photos. It is much better for the news to come from you than from a potential employer who, after having a fantastic interview with her, suddenly calls to notify her in a disdainful way that it turns out she is just not the “right fit” for the company after all.
The larger issue here is that people need to be aware of how they are portrayed online; it is information that can matter a lot to a lot of people. And just because you searched your name a year ago and didn’t find anything damaging doesn’t mean you don’t need to check again. Anything posted online is there for all to see for whatever purpose, and we always need to bear in mind the potential ramifications. Additionally, those of us who post to websites like Facebook need to be especially cautious; watch out for posting incriminating photos, snarky or risque comments, and revealing too much personal information. There are many ways around privacy filters. A social butterfly friend of mine once worked at a fancy shmancy office as an intern. She was actually hired to chit chat with the potential employees as they were waiting to interview (during first, second, and third interviews), befriend them, both in real life and on Facebook, and then share with the boss what she found out about them before the hiring decision was made. Slippery indeed!
So yes, best to tell her the naked truth! Good luck!