Ever had a friend lament, after you showed him or her something tasteless and/or awful, “Thanks a lot. Now I can never unsee that!” Well, here’s to the Internet, the world’s biggest “Can’t unsee that” case ever. The Internet, like some deranged virtual electronic elephant, never forgets.
“I don’t want to stay in this closet anymore; it’s cramped, it’s creepy, and I can’t breathe!”
If you’re one of those people who discovered privacy settings only after you already put up that video of you making a pass at that goat or the animated GIF of you flipping off an effigy of Big Business, then you need to see to it that a prospective employer never gets a whiff of this stuff. Here’s what you can do to make sure that the skeletons in your closet stay there.
First Of All, Contain The Damage
If you have access to privacy settings, and it would be unusual if you didn’t, then for Heaven’s sake, use them. Shut down any Public settings, and make sure that anything sketchy can only be seen by a small circle of people that you have absolute control over.
Of course, even better, don’t upload anything you’d be embarrassed to show to people face to face. Because even though you may only target friends with that allegedly hilarious picture of you mooning some protesters, there’s no guarantee that those friends won’t turn around and repost the image on their own sites; and their privacy settings may not be as strict as yours!
In order to make sure your old content can’t be searched, it makes sense to go to the Grand High Poobah of all search engines, your friend and mine, Google. Notify them and tell them that you want your personal data removed. That way, content on your site won’t show up on Google search results. That’s a good start. Still, there’s only so much Google can do to remove personal information.
Unfortunately, it’s tougher when you try to get other sites to remove your data. You can try to contact the webmaster of the site in question and ask for the content to be removed, but it doesn’t always work. In any event, you better be ready to prove who you are before they even consider such a request.
Try An Opt Out
The Internet is positively lousy with information broker services, all of them ready willing and able to peddle your personal information to businesses. But there are ways of fighting back. Contact the list makers, each one separately, establish your identity, and request that your name be removed.
Send For Help
If this whole task seems too overwhelming and/or complex, then consider engaging the services of a professional data remover. They will clean up your online reputation and keep monitoring the Internet for new occurrences. Sure, they cost, but they have the savvy and the resources to take the fight to places you would have difficult doing by your lonesome.
The best way to make sure that no one gets a hold of embarrassing content or personal information is to not put it out there in the first place. Before you upload the picture or post that video, give it the Grandmother Test, as in, ask yourself if this is something you’d let your grandmother see. Of course, the effectiveness of the Grandmother Test is somewhat diluted if she’s a part-time biker chick/Rolling Stones groupie who runs a meth lab out of her kitchen, but you get the idea …
Do a peace of mind spot check every so often by searching for your name and see what comes up. While it won’t tell you the full story, at least you can get some idea what would happen if a prospective boss just casually typed your name into Google to see what happened.
Your reputation is important, and the Internet will be most brutal with you even in a momentary lapse of judgment. Watch your step and keep your nose clean.