In the grand age of the Internet, doing things you regret become a lot more regretful as more and more information is permanently (seemingly) stored. You might find solace in disabling your accounts, but what about accounts that don’t offer that option? Surprisingly, there are a lot of different types of profiles and accounts that don’t allow a user to delete his/her information or account. Consider sites that aggregate content related to people or archives that take snapshots of web sites. Even if you delete something off of a website, you can never be sure that it is truly gone.
I just got through helping someone clean up his online footprint. For the sake of privacy, let’s call this guy, Matt.
I always knew Matt to be a bit more technologically savvy than your average user. Matt is all around a smart guy. As part of helping Matt with a project, I decided to research his online handle to ensure that it was safe to tie to the launch of a new persona that was in the works. After all, what use is a sordid handle?
To my horror–but more so disappointment–Matt’s handle was associated with his old forgotten accounts. Not so bad, right? Not when it involves streaming porn profiles and fetish forums. What’s worse was that his handle was so unique that it was plainly obvious that it was the same username that was affixed to all his personally identifiable accounts. Facebook, Twitter, and even worse, LinkedIn, which is an account tied to networking on the career and professional level–all these accounts had his online handle tied to them.
There are a lot of things that go into indexing a person’s history, per se. With that, there are a lot of different ways you can attempt to clean up your online image. The course we ended up taking was ditching that username altogether and trying to ‘unlink’ all of his accounts to that name by changing whatever username we could. For those that we couldn’t change, we figured he could afford to delete those accounts and start anew.
Matt was mortified that those relics from his past was floating around on the internet. Only time will tell if we cleaned up enough of the spill to make an impact. What’s the moral of the story?
DON’T LOOK AT PORN. Just kidding.
Be wary of your actions on the internet. Be mindful of the things you post and where you post them. Remember what account you’re using for what sites, and if you’re partaking in something rather unsavory, make sure the handle isn’t something you use elsewhere.