by Dennis Yang

Escaping Your Google Past

from the hindsight-is-20-20 dept

Before the Internet era it was easy to leave the past behind. Bad hair and personal bouts of indiscretion were buried in yearbooks, newspapers and faded memories effectively hidden from all but the most tenacious investigators. Today, details of our sordid pasts are easily accessible by the all seeing Google (and therefore, becoming quite a useful tool for reference checks). Though Googling someone may uncover helpful tidbits (like, say, a criminal record), some people are now faced with embarassing or incorrect information when they Google themselves. So, the big question is: how do you erase your past from the de facto permanent record that is Google? True, you could try and contact Google and ask them to remove the offending result, but considering it took Google two days to regain its own hijacked listing, you shouldn't hold your breath if you ask them to ditch that goofy high school photo. If you were a company, you could hire a sneaky search engine "optimizer" to bury your past with Google bombs and link farms, but that may prove inpractical (and increasingly ineffective as Google improves its algorithms to account for these tactics). Ironically, the most effective method to root out your past seems to be to establish a solid current online presence, so that your present self is a more "relevant" result for your name than your past achievements. That, however, is quite a chore for most people. Our pasts have usually been protected by the "security by obscurity" adage -- not necessarily under lock and key, but tucked away. Now that Google is doing its best to root out obscurity, that security is becoming increasingly exposed.

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  • identicon
    Tim, 2 Jun 2005 @ 5:39am

    No Subject Given

    Funny you should say that. I've been thinking that Google is the great inspiration towards keeping high morals, or something, simply because one the rules of not getting caught out is to know what may be logged about oneself.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Josh, 3 Jun 2005 @ 6:58am

    Common Name

    It is a lot easier when you have a common first and last name that combined together result in a lot of results.

    My information is pretty much lost in the shuffle.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    lillian, 13 Mar 2007 @ 6:29pm

    Kids, be careful what you do - good or bad

    I know I can never run for office!

    Me either. None of my shenanigans are recorded anywhere online but in this tell-all world, I have no illusions of privacy. I have a cross dressing ex-husband with a big mouth who would delight in running to the tabloids or local papers with what are actually very boring details. As a woman over forty I am acutely aware that a stupid decision made when I was 19 means that certain choices are out for me. I couldn't run for assistant dog catcher without that bozo ex popping up somewhere.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Allie, 27 Dec 2007 @ 4:16pm

    Specifically why I forbid myself to have a Myspace.

    But I wonder if that stint in the third grade still shadows me... O.o

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Amyobus Key, 9 May 2008 @ 11:27am


    What's even more intriguing is the existence of false reputations designed to destroy individuals. Are the search engines responsible for spreading what is not true? If the Internet is fundamentally flawed and unreliable, then anyone quoting it as a source of information before passing judgment on other people or institutions, can be liable. It is a great, almost-unregulated, fantasy world, in which people pretend to be who they are not, pretend to profess ideas, that have no validity, and yet how many people spend a great many hours absorbing its data? As a species, we may be in great difficulty, poised to do ourselves in by our own devices.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

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