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Best Way To Clear Your Name Online?

timothy posted more than 4 years ago | from the name-on-the-watchlist dept.

Privacy 888

An anonymous reader writes "About fifteen years ago, I did something that I've come to regret on a university computer system. I was subsequently interviewed by a Federal law enforcement agency, although no charges were pressed and I have no criminal record as a result of my actions. At the time, I discussed the matter with a friend of mine who went on to mention it briefly in a text file zine with a small distribution list. I've generally tried to keep a low profile online and until recently there's been very little information about me available from the major search engines. Unfortunately, that zine mention was picked up by textfiles.com at some point and mirrored across the world. I've tried to address this with the owner of the site, but couldn't get anywhere. Even if my name in the source file is altered, cached copies will continue to link me with my youthful mistake. Have any other Slashdot readers had a similar experience? What practical steps would your readers recommend to prevent this information from hurting me? I am concerned that future employers may hold my past actions against me should they look for me online as part of their screening process."

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welleee (1, Insightful)

SCVirus (774240) | more than 4 years ago | (#30394376)

Be a man and take responsibility for your actions.

Re:welleee (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30394838)

Seriously. You screwed up, why should history be re-written as a result? I hire sys admins, and from my point of view, even if this was 15 years ago it is relevant.

Nothing you can do... (5, Insightful)

Servaas (1050156) | more than 4 years ago | (#30394378)

Once its on the net, its on the net.

Re:Nothing you can do... (1)

Nefarious Wheel (628136) | more than 4 years ago | (#30394616)

Change your nick.

Oh, hang on - you used your real name?

Re:Nothing you can do... (2, Informative)

colmore (56499) | more than 4 years ago | (#30394808)

You didn't read the summary. Someone else wrote his name in a low-circulation document that is now publicly indexable.

This stuff scares the crap out of me. If you live in a small town, ANY arrest will get you in the newspaper.

Re:Nothing you can do... (5, Interesting)

commodore64_love (1445365) | more than 4 years ago | (#30394700)

Society needs to wake-up and realize punishing someone for what they did 20 years ago is ridiculous. Nobody is perfect. It's like what Harlan Ellison said on Sci-Fi Channel: "People accuse me of contradicting myself because 30 years ago I said this or that. And they're right. That's because 30 years ago I was young and stupid, and now I'm older and wiser and changed my mind. judge me on who I am today, now when I was some young brat."

IMHO just as thre's a 7-year stature of limitations on law, so too should employers have a limitation on how far back they can dig. Anything that predates this decade should be irrelevant.

Sorry for the typos - I'm typing on a mac.
I'm not usd to this keyboard'

Re:Nothing you can do... (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Brave Guy (457657) | more than 4 years ago | (#30394784)

That doesn't mean you can't do what the PR agents do: generate higher-profile positive information. That makes it harder to encounter the negative stuff casually. It also changes the balance in the perception of the individual concerned if the negative stuff does also come to light.

Re:Nothing you can do... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30394842)

you should have been anonymous from day one.

I Don't Worry (5, Insightful)

headkase (533448) | more than 4 years ago | (#30394398)

And I'm an idiot to this day. Any employer who would hold a youth mistake against you is also an idiot. Especially when you can google their name in return... Nobody is free of skeletons, just try not to have some real bad ones.

Re:I Don't Worry (5, Informative)

Monkeedude1212 (1560403) | more than 4 years ago | (#30394578)

If you consider something at "University" a Youth Mistake. Most people are generally at the age of adulthood since then.

While I agree, anyone who will hold that one and only thing against you would be a jerk, that doesn't mean it won't happen. But it will usually mean you wouldn't want to work with that person anyways. (In the tough economy though, most take whatever job they can find).

And if it's the ONLY thing available on him, it depends on what personally identifiable information is there. Does it include the University and his full name? Or just his first name and the University.

I can think of a handful of circumstances where he could simply say "No, that's not me" if the information isn't solid.

As a Pro Tip: Make a Facebook Account, spend 1 weekend on it putting a few non-embarassing pictures, Change your status to something positive, and never touch it again. It'll get picked up on Google and the images you're tagged in - blamo, that small thing is going to the bottom of the list.

Re:I Don't Worry (1)

Hognoxious (631665) | more than 4 years ago | (#30394738)

If you consider something at "University" a Youth Mistake. Most people are generally at the age of adulthood since then.

In the US you can't even drink beer till you're in your final year.

Re:I Don't Worry (1)

Monkeedude1212 (1560403) | more than 4 years ago | (#30394790)

But you can drive a vehicle before you enter?

Re:I Don't Worry (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30394792)

If you consider something at "University" a Youth Mistake. Most people are generally at the age of adulthood since then.

So you're saying the moment of your 18th birthday that you all of a sudden mature and no longer make mistakes?

Not keeping low profile? (5, Insightful)

Lord Lode (1290856) | more than 4 years ago | (#30394406)

I'm not sure how bad it is, but if someone types your name in google and the ONLY thing they find is that one thing you don't, then it'll stand out. Try to use your name for everything, so that those things appear first in the results.

Re:Not keeping low profile? (5, Funny)

jason.sweet (1272826) | more than 4 years ago | (#30394496)

Start a blog and claim you had sex with Tiger Woods. Those old references will be buried so far in the search, it will just like it never happened.

Re:Not keeping low profile? (4, Funny)

eln (21727) | more than 4 years ago | (#30394582)

Yeah right...at this point you'd be lucky to end up on page 5 of the Google search results, behind everyone else who's had sex with Tiger.

Re:Not keeping low profile? (-1, Troll)

ksd1337 (1029386) | more than 4 years ago | (#30394502)

You can write cease-and-desist letters to the webmasters of sites with information about yourself you would like removed. Alternatively, there are companies who will do all this work for you for a price.

Re:Not keeping low profile? (5, Funny)

zarthrag (650912) | more than 4 years ago | (#30394564)

Barbra? is that you?

Re:Not keeping low profile? (4, Insightful)

Achromatic1978 (916097) | more than 4 years ago | (#30394630)

What? "Please cease and desist publishing this information about me that is true and was once published in a magazine."

I think you mean 'ask politely', because I highly doubt a cease and desist would do much here beyond get you laughed at and provoke a lawyer to write a nice letter explaining the concept of the First Amendment to you.

Re:Not keeping low profile? (1)

daveime (1253762) | more than 4 years ago | (#30394648)

Aren't cease and desist takedowns usually a precursor to a libel or similar type of action.

In this case, the webmaster is not publishing anything libellous or falsehoods, simply a documented fact about something that really happenned in this person's past.

Just because you don't want it online doesn't give you any legal authority to demand it be removed. Unless of course you are the RIAA and the judge is Swedish.

Re:Not keeping low profile? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30394680)

You cannot cease and desist factual information. If you burglarize someone's home and that person posts the entire story of the incident online (even complete with photos), there is fuck all you can do about it.

Re:Not keeping low profile? (1)

larry bagina (561269) | more than 4 years ago | (#30394698)

I'm a big fan of textfiles and would hate to see shit taken down. (Aside from J Random Douchebag's name, they have anarchy files with bomb instructions, etc. You shouldn't try them, but it has historical and comical value and censoring won't stop terrorism). I don't know or care what the incident was, but chances are I would think "that's cool" rather than "don't hire" given the context.

Re:Not keeping low profile? (1, Insightful)

TheRecklessWanderer (929556) | more than 4 years ago | (#30394510)

Sucks when you are held responsible for your actions.

Re:Not keeping low profile? (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Brave Guy (457657) | more than 4 years ago | (#30394686)

If no charges were ever brought and no criminal record is involved, I have to wonder whether the OP regrets the actions because they were of the "perceived to be wrong" kind rather than the "actually wrong" kind. In that case, yes, it does suck to be held responsible, particularly if word is getting around but you have no effective right to reply and set the record straight.

Exactly (1)

GameGod0 (680382) | more than 4 years ago | (#30394774)

The only way to control your name on the internet is to use assert control over it by using it actively. Make yourself known on the internet in a way you want to be known, so that this oddball reference to you gets buried into obscurity.

Re:Not keeping low profile? (1)

colmore (56499) | more than 4 years ago | (#30394822)

Great the solution is to make life even MORE of a panopticon.

I kind of hate the future.

How common is your name? (5, Insightful)

Mal-2 (675116) | more than 4 years ago | (#30394420)

If you're "John Smith", I think it will be pretty easy to disclaim being the SAME John Smith unless there are a lot of other matching details.

On the other hand, if your last name is "Szczerbiak", maybe you can make a case for wanting to simplify the spelling and change it.

Basically those are the first two options I can think of -- dodge, and go stand somewhere else.

Mal-2

Re:How common is your name? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30394666)

My name WAS unique. Too unique for the internet age,
so I changed it by deedpoll to anonymous.

The only problem with this, is name fields always insist on a first AND surname.
Not all cultures have surnames so this is sort of a pain in the ass, but it's SO worth it to have
a mononymous passport.

Re:How common is your name? (1)

daveime (1253762) | more than 4 years ago | (#30394712)

My father's name is NOT Walter, and I've never been to Spain, you insensitive clod.

Your choices remain (1)

Deadguy2322 (761832) | more than 4 years ago | (#30394422)

You did it, and you can't undo it. Just do your best to show you have changed, and own your past mistake. I assume it has shaped you as a person, so do not disown it.

Why bother? (0)

drachenfyre (550754) | more than 4 years ago | (#30394424)

Unless you have an incredibly unique name, you simply say, "I have no idea who that was, but it wasn't me". There is no other identifying informaton or anything else like that.

Re:Why bother? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30394534)

He said it happened at college. So what are the chances some guy of the same name was going to that school (which is listed on his resume) at the same time he attended is not him?

Re:Why bother? (1)

cmiller173 (641510) | more than 4 years ago | (#30394696)

There were two other people at my University with the same first and last name at the same time I was there, only the middle name was different.

Re:Why bother? (2, Insightful)

Eric in SF (1030856) | more than 4 years ago | (#30394574)

That's just setting yourself up for getting fired later for lying to your prospective employer during the interview process.

Re:Why bother? (2, Interesting)

LWATCDR (28044) | more than 4 years ago | (#30394834)

How about telling the truth?
It probably happened a decade ago. Even if I did find it I am not so sure that I would put a lot of credence in an old BBS text file from that long ago.
If I was interviewing and had found that I might ask about it.
If I got the answer "Yes I had a little talk with my university about that and they let me off with a warning, boy did I learn from that!" I would probably mark it down as a positive.
If I got a No not me never did that and you started to sweat I would keep looking.
If it was in a position that required a security clearance then you better tell the truth. They will find it and they will go there and find out if it was you. If you lied you will NEVER get a clearance ever.
You did it, it is documented. Odds are nobody will care if you tell the truth. They will care if you lie.

Not possible anymore (2, Insightful)

linuxgurugamer (917289) | more than 4 years ago | (#30394428)

Not much you can do now, in regards to your online presence.

If an employer asks, calmy explain that it was a youthful mistake. Emphasize that you have not done anything like that since, and that you have a clean record.

Worst case: change your name.l

Let's get him (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30394430)

It's the Make Money Fast spammer!!!

Use it in the interview.. (5, Insightful)

Manip (656104) | more than 4 years ago | (#30394446)

Did you ever consider taking what you did and using it as a reason they SHOULD hire you?

Re:Use it in the interview.. (1)

EgNagRah (1650283) | more than 4 years ago | (#30394520)

manip is right, you should think about how this experience has allowed you to help prevent that kind of thing from happening.

Re:Use it in the interview.. (1)

daveime (1253762) | more than 4 years ago | (#30394800)

Jay: Hey, wait a second! Aren't you the guy who fucked the pie!

Jason Biggs: You see! It's never "Hey! You're that guy from Loser" or "Hey you rocked in Boys and Girls." No, it always comes back to that fucking pie! I'm HAUNTED by it!

James Van Der Beek: You put your dick in a pie!

Re:Use it in the interview.. (1)

FlyingBishop (1293238) | more than 4 years ago | (#30394576)

You're assuming:

A) What he did showed technical aptitude.
B) He's applying for a technical position.

I think if both were true, yes, that's reasonable. Otherwise you can only use it as a learning experience, and only if they bring it up.

Re:Use it in the interview.. (1)

eln (21727) | more than 4 years ago | (#30394618)

He could use the lessons learned from his mistake as a parable for the importance of integrity no matter what kind of job he's applying for.

Re:Use it in the interview.. (1)

Monkeedude1212 (1560403) | more than 4 years ago | (#30394592)

What if it's not what you're thinking.

Alleged Child Pornography?

Re:Use it in the interview.. (1)

Kythe (4779) | more than 4 years ago | (#30394812)

Given the nature of CP laws, I'd have to believe whatever the poster actually did wasn't very serious. Wouldn't have taken much for a real violation to land him in prison.

Re:Use it in the interview.. (5, Insightful)

pyster (670298) | more than 4 years ago | (#30394778)

You have to remember that the BBS days were full of hack/phreak/anarchy. Many of us were terrible children. If a kid did half the shit we did, or lied about doing, they would be carted off to gitmo never to be seen again. hell, they want to charge you with a crime for just having 'anarchy' files today.

3 thoughts (3, Informative)

Red Flayer (890720) | more than 4 years ago | (#30394448)

Some thoughts:

1. Are you still friends with the writer of the zine? Ask them to send a DMCA notice. Don't know if it would work, but may be worth a shot.

2. Drown out the old stuff. Develop an online presence that will bury the old stuff into obscurity. Register your real name as your user ID on all the sites you post on. Downside: prospective employers, etc, will think you spend all day on those sites.

3. Change your name.

Sorry if this is of no help.

Live with it. (3, Insightful)

qoncept (599709) | more than 4 years ago | (#30394450)

Just live with it. A reasonable person can see the difference between a simple mistake years ago (especially if there is no conviction) and a habitual law breaker. I sold alcohol to a minor because I was too lazy to check an ID, and it turned out to be a sting. It didn't ruin my life.

Re:Live with it. (1)

rotide (1015173) | more than 4 years ago | (#30394610)

Exactly, embrace your mistakes as learning experiences. Take your faults and use them to shore up your strengths.

Everyone has done things they aren't proud of, but the goal is to become better because you've learned from them!

As another poster said, find ways to take your past faults and turn them into personal assets.

Clear of what? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30394452)

And what did you do?

(cap ensnare)

A good way to lower your profile (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30394456)

A good way to lower your profile would be to not link to the site in question on a prominent site like Slashdot. I think you deserve the karma hit for being that stupid.

Re:A good way to lower your profile (1)

Hognoxious (631665) | more than 4 years ago | (#30394636)

Actually it's pretty smart. Anyone searching for it will get a 503 error.

petty (1)

gsaraber (46165) | more than 4 years ago | (#30394458)

It's 15 years ago, if they hold something minor (no charges were pressed) that happened 15 years ago as the reason for not giving you the job... then you probably weren't going to get it anyway.

Live With It (1)

TyroneShoe (912878) | more than 4 years ago | (#30394474)

A single act you did as a kid 15 years ago will not define who you are. Anyone who treats the event as a defining act is probably a jackass and not someone you want to deal with anyways. However, given how much effort/thought you have put into dealing with the situation, I would guess these events did have some kind of significant effect on who you are as a person today. Should it ever come up in a discussion, I would use it as an opportunity to put a positive spin on yourself and how you are a better, more ethical person because of your youthful mistake(s)

Re:Live With It (5, Informative)

Eric in SF (1030856) | more than 4 years ago | (#30394688)

I've seen first-hand at two companies that he's got something to worry about. Not during the interview, but before. At my last two employers it was standard process to do a quick google/facebook check and discard any applicants showing anything remotely controversial as part of their public persona. When you get 500+ resumes for one position, you do everything you can to whittle that stack down BEFORE you start bringing people in for interviews.

I'm not saying I agree with any of it, just relaying my bit of anecdotal evidence.

On reflection... (5, Funny)

Zocalo (252965) | more than 4 years ago | (#30394476)

...posting the fact to a site where a good deal of the readership's instinctive reaction to the posting of sensitive information on the Internet is to find and mirror it in as many locations as possible is probably not the best first step. See "Streisand Effect". [wikipedia.org] Then again, if you are just pretending to be the subject of the text in order to humiliate the actual victim even further, then I tip my hat to you sir. Bravo!

Sucks, hey? (0, Troll)

ceoyoyo (59147) | more than 4 years ago | (#30394482)

Sucks to have to live with the consequences of your actions, hey?

If it was something really serious, well, don't do the crime if you can't do the time. If it wasn't that serious then you don't want to work for someone who would hold it against you anyway.

Re:Sucks, hey? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30394546)

Robert Brown, is that you?

Suicide is your only realistic option (0, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30394492)

Face it. Life is not worth living anymore. Time to bite the bullet or take the "long swim".

You will be haunted by this all your life so you might as well end it all now.

Re:Suicide is your only realistic option (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30394626)

But suicides go to hell where they are constantly ass raped by demons using sandpaper condoms. Better off not offing yourself unless you want to be some demon's bitch for all eternity.

smokescreen (5, Insightful)

resfilter (960880) | more than 4 years ago | (#30394500)

if you manage to smokescreen your online identity with huge amount of positive material that bears your name (i.e. get your name on a lot of popular projects), with lots of cross linking, you will at the very least bury it into non-existance as far as search engines are concerned.

if it's result number 999 on google, i doubt your average employer will read that far into it, and if they do, the amount of positive things that have been said about you will probably outweigh the one negative result

and i'm not sure of US law in this manner, but is it legal to deny someone a job opportunity based on an alleged crime for which they were completely pardoned?

Re:smokescreen (1)

snl2587 (1177409) | more than 4 years ago | (#30394596)

and i'm not sure of US law in this manner, but is it legal to deny someone a job opportunity based on an alleged crime for which they were completely pardoned?

Probably not, but that won't be the claim the potential employer makes. They'll simply say that the person is not what they're looking for; no law against that.

Re:smokescreen (1)

bcmm (768152) | more than 4 years ago | (#30394608)

and i'm not sure of US law in this manner, but is it legal to deny someone a job opportunity based on an alleged crime for which they were completely pardoned?

Does it matter? I'm sure it's not illegal to decide that something you read in another applicant's CV is so totally awesome that it's not worth looking at that other guy any more.

Re:smokescreen (1)

EmagGeek (574360) | more than 4 years ago | (#30394728)

An employer does not have to give you a reason for not hiring you, although they cannot deny you based solely on your race, religion, age, gender, and some other protected classes. That said, most employers write down plenty of negative stuff about you during your interview, and very little positive stuff, even if they really like you. If it goes to court, they can say "hey, here are our notes. You can plainly see this candidate was not that impressive."

The best thing you can do is post on /. (5, Insightful)

The Real Nem (793299) | more than 4 years ago | (#30394516)

You just awoke a sleeping giant. As we speak thousands of once idle keyboards are feverishly trying away to unravel the mystery of just who you are and what you did - you even told them where to look. How fond were you of your name?

Go Buddhist (3, Interesting)

scorp1us (235526) | more than 4 years ago | (#30394522)

There is no way you can track down all those bits and alter/destroy them. Regardless fo the legality, it is impossible from a legal perspective.

Go Buddhist, give up everything, change your name, (your SSN will stay, IIRC) and reinvent yourself. Seems to me to be a lot for a stupid text file. As someone who would work at a summer camp, I would disappear 3 months out of the year to the world outside the camp. I'd come back fresh, refreshed and unencumbered. Live off the net for a while and see how really irrelevant it is to the Real World.

or just maybe remove all the link destinations?

Just explain it (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30394536)

And for the future, name all of your kids John Smith.

If you can't dazzle them with brilliance (1, Insightful)

MerlynEmrys67 (583469) | more than 4 years ago | (#30394540)

Baffle them with Bullshit.

Create all kinds of web presence - create several blogs and crosslink them to high profile sites. Google juice the heck out of a personal web page you have. Post about work you do on various sites.

It boils down to make it so the one incident is buried in googles results to the second page, and even then - they will see all the positive stuff on the first page and wonder if it is even you.

Attention seeking (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30394544)

What avague and unlikely story...
This is up there with claiming you hacked a Gibson...

Change your name (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30394548)

Change your name.

I know it sounds extreme, but it would solve the problem.

Am I the only one.. (1)

Ka D'Argo (857749) | more than 4 years ago | (#30394552)

curious as to what this guy did online 15 years ago that would both warrant a g-man visiting him and his need to have it removed from viewing online?

Re:Am I the only one.. (4, Funny)

NoYob (1630681) | more than 4 years ago | (#30394766)

No you're not. I found him. He's a very very bad boy. I did a search of computer hacks in 1994 and I saw textfiles (he DID mention it) and this is what I found. [textfiles.com]

Yep, that bad ass hacks calculators! Do you know the turmail he could have caused! He should have been sent away for a very very long time!

Suggestion (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30394554)

Just hack into the server hosting the offending item and... oh wait.

Game the system... (2, Interesting)

middlemen (765373) | more than 4 years ago | (#30394558)

You can always game the system. Remember search engines will only find your name if it is indexed. So all you need to do is create a bunch of websites and pages about yourself that are clean and sanitized as per your requirements on websites like LinkedIn, Facebook, MySpace/Twitter, and some interesting blog sites that have high rankings as per ranking systems and high traffic such as Alexa (probably). Perform some search engine optimization on your webpages and profiles such that these sites come in the first page and textfiles.com is pushed back 2-3 pages. No one goes beyond the first page if they find the main stuff in the first few links. Remember that's why Google gave the "I'm Feeling Lucky" button.

Of course, if someone wants to they can find every detail on you, but you can divert them intelligently by using the internet. Think it over.

Well first... (5, Funny)

Hognoxious (631665) | more than 4 years ago | (#30394560)

First[1], you need to invent a time machine. Then you travel back in time and either convince your former self not to do it or you kill all the witnesses and destroy all the evidence.

[1] You can actually do it last, if you like. Or in the middle. Whenever. It is a time machine, after[2] all.
[2] Or before all. It is a time machine, after[3] all.
[3] Or before all. It is stack overflow near line 5. Bailing

Re:Well first... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30394758)

That's why they never pressed charges. In about 30 years he's going to get access to time travel and go back and convince them not to press charges thus leaving his record clean allowing him to get a job working for the company that develops time travel.

What's in a name? (0, Redundant)

Gricey (154787) | more than 4 years ago | (#30394566)

If asked, say it wasn't you. Done.

Re:What's in a name? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30394672)

Oh yeah... Lying about it will *really* help out.

Then you'll just be adding to the reasons why they should not hire you.

Re:What's in a name? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30394690)

No, then you are lying to a potential employer, which you could later get fired for.

Just laugh and say "I get that all the time."

Don't let it be the most interesting result (1)

bcmm (768152) | more than 4 years ago | (#30394572)

Do other things that will get your name on search engines. Are you a programmer? Consider volunteering for an awesome open-source project (something people have heard of), so that "John UnfortunatelyUniqueMiddleName Doe added some cool features to AwesomeProject" appears first. They may still read the other stuff, but it will look a lot less like you've spent your whole life doing stupid things to computers, and mean that the advantages of hiring you are presented next to the information that may cause doubt.

What Would Joel Do (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30394598)

I would go follow Joel Spolsky's advice. Own your own brand. Make sure good stuff about you is posted, post under your real name, and dilute the bad stuff into oblivion (or at least off the first search page)

Any "normal" employer is going to give up google searching after the first 20 or 30 good hits. Any employer paranoid enough to require security clearances will find info even if you mange to scrub it off the internet. And if questioned about it, talk honestly about it - you regret it, it was a learning experience, and you have resolved to never do it again.

Good idea (1)

MullerMn (526350) | more than 4 years ago | (#30394600)

I'd DEFINITELY start by drawing everybody's attention to it online as much as possible. Perhaps by posting about it on one of the more widely read techie news sites? Maybe a sort of reverse Streisand effect could be created.

If interviewed by Federal law enforcement (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30394604)

Offer to help them steal a universal decryption chip. And grow some dreamy blue eyes, feathered hair and side burns to die for.

White-out, that's the ticket (3, Funny)

macraig (621737) | more than 4 years ago | (#30394620)

I bought a used street sweeper and modded it with an extra tank on the top. I fill that full of white-out that I made myself in bulk from a secret family recipe (what can I say, I come from a long line of screw-ups). Then whenever I put my online foot in my mouth, I run out and hop in my "Eraser" and head off for my ISP's local datacenter... I whitewash the whole place top to bottom, and problem solved.

I see the other end of this problem rather often (5, Interesting)

shawnmchorse (442605) | more than 4 years ago | (#30394650)

I'm a long-term Rocky Horror Picture Show cast member, and I run a web site [austinrocky.org] for our local cast in Austin. I've been running this web site for over a decade now.

Cast members are frequently very interested to see photographs of themselves performing in the show. And since it's Rocky Horror, they're usually wearing lingerie of some sort. At the time the photos are posted, they're invariably very excited about this. Especially because I take pride in my photography, and most people haven't seen photos of themselves prior to this that someone had actually put significant work into.

A few years later though, these same people have frequently quit the cast, possibly graduated from college, and moved on to other activities. They may decide they want to apply for jobs in education, as music minister of a church, etc. They do some vanity searching on Google and are shocked... shocked I tell you!... that the Rocky Horror cast web site is still online and kicking with what had been posted some years previously.

Now keep in mind this is a hobby web site that I do purely for the enjoyment of myself and other cast members. It's done in my spare time, and I've always paid for it out of pocket.

I'm sure I could honor requests to remove all of these photos, but I simply don't want to. It involves a lot of time and effort on my end, to accomplish something that's actively taking away from things I take pride in myself. I get probably a half dozen requests per year on average at this point all basically saying the same thing: "Take down my photos now! You're causing damage to my reputation!". At some point I just had to say to hell with them all and whip up a form letter response saying "Sorry, but I'm just not going to do anything about it".

Stop worrying about it (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30394652)

Seriously, what you did in your youth and what you do now, with 15 years of maturity (I imagine) and life experience, will have very little in common. Kids do stuff, that's what being a kid is about (and by kid I include those in their early twenties). I employed and worked with people with, let's say, interesting backgrounds. Most were (and are) a damn sight more interesting than the straight laced types. That said, not knowing what you did it's hard to comment fully.

It has been 20 minutes... (1)

EmagGeek (574360) | more than 4 years ago | (#30394654)

... how come nobody's posted the relevant info on this guy? You guys are slippin'

"permanent record" - FOUND! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30394664)

I always wondered where that "permanent record" was that everyone warned me about. I always assumed is was with the FBI an NSA (they know me). Good to know they've outsource it to textfiles.com. I'll be really worried if it were google that owned it.

Thanks for sharing your story. Perhaps a few stupid young people will think twice about doing something "funny" IRL that could follow them for life.

Keeping a low profile might have been the wrong (1)

tbf (462972) | more than 4 years ago | (#30394676)

> I've generally tried to keep a low profile online and until recently there's been very little information about me available from the major search engines.

And that's exactly the mistake you made, probably. Instead of keeping low profile you probably should have filled the web with positive information. This would have had two effects:

- people finding your youth mistake could contrast it with more recent contributions
- your positive contributions would have pushed your youth mistake to page 100 or something in search engines

you bet I've had similar concerns (4, Interesting)

2ms (232331) | more than 4 years ago | (#30394684)

In fact, it bugs me nearly every day:

A few years ago I was living in a place for just a few weeks and using the computer that came with the room there. Unfortunately, I apparently left my browser with the cookie or whatever that automatically logged me into gmail account. So, some asshole came along after I left and used the opportunity to use my email account to register for some forum that discusses getting Viagra in all kinds of illegal ways. My gmail address is basically exactly my name.

So every time I apply for a job, every time I apply for an apartment or whatever, when I meet a girl etc, I feel like someone's going to Google me and nearly the first result that pops up is all this crap about all kinds of illegal ways of getting Viagra for recreation use etc. It's a nightmare. I've done everything I can to email administrators of the forum (which has now seemed to be swallowed up into other forums so the same posts appear on several different sites) but no one ever returns my emails no matter how much I explain the situation. Due to the nature of my work, I'm very confident this has in fact impacted my career. I don't want to think about things like potential girlfriends, housemates, people generally interested in what I've done in the (scientific) community I work in, etc.

If anyone has any ideas for me on what I could do it would be IMMENSELY valuable to me. I'm very glad this has come up on Slashdot.

not posing the question on Slashdot (1, Redundant)

smadasam (831582) | more than 4 years ago | (#30394736)

I don't think posting this question on Slashdot was the best way to keep it low profile.

Misleading...... (1)

ewenix (702589) | more than 4 years ago | (#30394744)

This article should be titled: "How to drive a bunch of stupid slashdotters to my website and increase traffic by 1000%"

Easy fix (1)

psyque (1234612) | more than 4 years ago | (#30394752)

Change your name.

Consequences (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30394754)

Sucks that your actions have consequences doesn't it? Those consequences can haunt you the rest of your life... let's here the typical "I didn't know" and we can all pretend it never happened, WRONG!

If you show some "net worthy" repentance maybe some good stuff will show up along with the bad.

Can't change the past, so talk about the future... (1)

GasparGMSwordsman (753396) | more than 4 years ago | (#30394776)

Your basically online with that story forever now. Not much you can do about that.

Instead you could try to put more of you out there. If this story is only one of a hundred and the others are more recent and show you in a better light then the old story will matter less.

Is that you? (1)

An anonymous Frank (559486) | more than 4 years ago | (#30394780)

zerocool?

Alias (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30394798)

This is one of many reasons why people have to use aliases, and why it shouldn't be illegal.

I have said it before, citizens must alias.

It's just like Vegas! (1)

Scragglykat (1185337) | more than 4 years ago | (#30394804)

What you do in cyberspace, stays in cyberspace! Unfortunately, cyberspace is a bit more accessible than Vegas.

White Noise (2, Insightful)

nerd65536 (692353) | more than 4 years ago | (#30394818)

Bury the text file in search engine results by having a larger on-line presence. Write a blog, submit posts everywhere. Drown it in noise.

"Solution" (1)

operagost (62405) | more than 4 years ago | (#30394836)

Kick your "friend" in the junk for using your real name. It won't solve anything, but you'll feel better.
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