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HOW TO: Erase Your Online Past


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erase me imageDave Borgenicht is the co-author of the best-selling Worst-Case Scenario Survival Handbook, which has spawned numerous sequels, games, t-shirts, a TV show and more. For more tips, check out the official blog or follow the Worst-Case Twitter feed @WorstCaseBooks.

These days, it’s getting tougher and tougher to keep a good name unbesmirched. Surveys indicate that as many as half of hiring managers use search engines to screen job applicants, and 1 in 10 have rejected potential employees because of damaging information on the web. Even if there’s no one out to get you, it’s likely that you’ve left your own e-trail of embarrassment: Facebook photos, blog comments, cached web pages, YouTube videos — all these things can provide the world with evidence of your previous poor judgement and wrongdoing.

Here’s how to combat that, and purge your online past.


1. Take Down Your Own Postings


The vast majority of embarrassing online material consists of things people posted themselves. Remove all such material from your Facebook page, MySpace page, Classmates page, Twitter postings, and anywhere else it appears. When evaluating whether material is unacceptable, imagine your grandmother or a potential employer viewing it.


2. Block Outsiders


Reset the “settings” on your social networking profiles to limit access only to people you have approved.


3. Search for Your Name


Find your entire online presence by searching for yourself in every search engine. Dig into all the resulting pages and open every link. Look for pictures from your past in which you are doing embarrassing or questionable activities, such as doing a keg stand, setting a police car on fire, or wearing stonewashed jeans.


4. Search Smarter


Redo your search, this time searching for just your last name, in combination with your hometown, college, or any institution you’ve been a member of, such as a scouting organization, sorority, or fight club.


5. Politely Request Removal


E-mail the administrator of any site that includes dubious material relating to you, and ask them politely to remove it.


6. Litigiously Request Removal


Draft a threatening e-mail and send to the site owner, carbon copying the e-mail to your local police precinct or FBI branch office. Generally, it is impossible to force removal of non-copyrighted personal photographs, but the threat of a lawsuit can be enough to intimidate non-experts.


7. Clarify Photographs


Add photo “tags” or captions to pictures that show you throwing up on spring break, or making out with a cab driver, strongly condemning your identical twin’s behavior or praising the wonders of Photoshop.


8. Counter-Post


Flood the Internet with attractive, non-incriminating photographs of yourself, and launch a blog detailing your charity work with homeless puppies. The more positive material you post, the further the negative material will be exiled to the end of the search list.

See also:

HOW TO: Survive Disconnect Anxiety [HUMOR]
HOW TO: Outsmart Phishers [HUMOR]

Images courtesy of iStockphoto, CareyHope, richcano

Tags: humor, identity, personal brand

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