Deleting your digital past -- for good

Can you erase your tracks online? We tried to get a few bad mentions off the Net forever. Here's how we did.

We knew only her first name, her hometown from five years ago and the bands she liked at that time. The e-mail address listed in the user account for her online journal was defunct.

WrongedGirl provided us with a possible last name for the author, but unfortunately, like the author's first name, it was too common to be helpful. Her first and possibly last names together garnered 1,260 hits on Google, including multiple references on YouTube and multiple accounts on LinkedIn and Facebook, none of which appeared to be our author.

After a couple of mind-numbing hours trolling MySpace accounts, we did find an entry that looked promising (same first name, same state and county, if not exact hometown, and same favorite bands), but that too had been updated only a few times before being abandoned more than two years ago. It looked like we had a serial journaler on our hands.

We gave up on trying to track down the author and turned to the site where the journal was posted -- Blurty . We posted our request to remove the offending material in the support forum. A few moments later, we received an automated e-mail response, with a tracking number, saying that our request had been received and would be addressed as soon as possible. But over the next four days, nobody responded.

Strike Two: Rotten Tomatoes

Our final attempt to erase someone's digital tracks also met with defeat.

Freelance journalist wants her name taken off the Rotten Tomatoes movie-review Web site.

Good luck with that, say ReputationDefender CEO Michael Fertik, ReputationHawk founder Chris Martin and Columbia University journalism professor Todd Gitlin. Large, commercial (implication: lucrative) Web sites have little need to accommodate your petty requests. If you get through and find a sympathetic person on the end of a phone line, perhaps you'll get lucky. Otherwise, fuggedaboutit.

That prediction turned out to be on the money. Multiple e-mails to various Rotten Tomatoes addresses went unanswered or were bounced back as undeliverable. Messages left at the phone number for the parent company, IGN Entertainment, likewise went nowhere.

Apparently, the journalist's best course of action would be to do what reputation mavens recommended in the first place: Create enough positive, search-engine-friendly content to push the "rotten + journalist's name" search result to Google's second page of results.

Join the PC World newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags online safetyblogssocial networkingsearch engines

Struggling for Christmas presents this year? Check out our Christmas Gift Guide for some top tech suggestions and more.

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Tracy Mayor

Computerworld

Most Popular Reviews

Follow Us

Best Deals on GoodGearGuide

Shopping.com

Latest News Articles

Resources

GGG Evaluation Team

Kathy Cassidy

STYLISTIC Q702

First impression on unpacking the Q702 test unit was the solid feel and clean, minimalist styling.

Anthony Grifoni

STYLISTIC Q572

For work use, Microsoft Word and Excel programs pre-installed on the device are adequate for preparing short documents.

Steph Mundell

LIFEBOOK UH574

The Fujitsu LifeBook UH574 allowed for great mobility without being obnoxiously heavy or clunky. Its twelve hours of battery life did not disappoint.

Andrew Mitsi

STYLISTIC Q702

The screen was particularly good. It is bright and visible from most angles, however heat is an issue, particularly around the Windows button on the front, and on the back where the battery housing is located.

Simon Harriott

STYLISTIC Q702

My first impression after unboxing the Q702 is that it is a nice looking unit. Styling is somewhat minimalist but very effective. The tablet part, once detached, has a nice weight, and no buttons or switches are located in awkward or intrusive positions.

Latest Jobs

Shopping.com

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?