Saturday, April 3, 2010

Internet postings are forever

Occasionally, I get requests (emails) asking me to delete old postings of mine. The latest was from someone concerned that the posts were going to be indexed by search engines, and that their employer and friends were going to discover their religion. Of course, they did not indicate what postings I mentioned them in, or the site or forum, or even what the postings were about. Given the fact that I have been involved on the internet for ten years now (I think), and average several posts and comments a week, that is a lot of posts that I would have to go though if I was even remotely inclined to delete things.

There was also the little fact that I did not recognize the name or email address of the person making the request. So without more information, I have no idea where (or how far back) to even start looking.

And this is assuming that I even have the authority to delete the postings that this person is concerned about in the first place. Often on forums, the only people who have the authority to delete anything are the list owners. So both I and this party would have to ask for the posts to be removed...and if they do not give them any more information than they did me...well, there is an new old saying "Things you say and do on the internet are forever."

This is something I think a lot of people forget. The things that you post on internet forums, Facebook, MySpace and Twitter are forever. Between internet caches, system backups, saved emails and files, and the occasional hard-copy printout, your activity on the internet has the potential to be around much longer than you might think it does.

(This is one of the hidden reasons that we will never see the various Golden Dawn groups clean up their internet past. It is a lot of work for very little gain considering that someone could come along and create a new website and put it all back up online shortly after they do their cleanup.)

Before you start posting on the internet, especially if you are doing and saying things that might cost you a job or a relationship later, you need to decide what you are willing and unwilling to deal with. What are you willing to have be public knowledge for the rest of your life and beyond? Know your limits and stay in your limits...and don't change your mind (because it is really hard to change your mind later).

And don't plan on getting a lot of help from people like me who have busy lives either if you change your mind later. Between my college homework and being a freelance writer I do not have time for a fishing trip to locate an unknown post. Remember you are responsible for your own internet reputation: Don't post anything that you don't want your boss, lover or grandmother to read.


Gordon said...

Nice post.

Managing an online reputation is an individual's own business.

Do you not think there's something vaguely megalomaniacal about assuming your employer is going to go trawling through old forums, anyway?

Unless you're working for the government they're only going to look at the first few search results... Just need to make sure those ones are SFW.

Morgan Drake Eckstein said...

I never thought about the megalomania involved on that front, but I have considered the ego it must take to email someone and ask them to go delete posts; it basically shouts "My reputation is more important than your time and energy."

Frater Yechidah said...

Please delete this comment, as it may damage my reputation.



Theo Huffman said...

Whenever I think about this issue, I am very grateful I live in Hungary and not the USA. Here, if my employer or the authorities or whoever knew about the kinds of things I occupy myself with on the internet (I'm talking about the occult stuff), they'd just think I'm eccentric and perhaps stupid, as opposed to the States where you have to be afraid that some narrow-minded fundamentalist in a position of authority is going to blackball you and possibly harass you.