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    New York Times: Erasing the Digital Past

    The New York Times considers the idea of online data permanence and whether you can control your digital history with reputation management:

    THE Internet never forgets. Just ask the New York City teacher who recently divorced his wife of five years. Drop his name into Google, and his ex-wife appears in pictures of vacations and Christmas parties. “It’s difficult when you’re trying to date and your ex is still in the picture, so to speak,” said the teacher, who didn’t want to make matters worse by having his name in a newspaper. […]

    At first, some tried manipulating the Web results on their own, by doing things like manually deleting photos from Flickr, revising Facebook pages and asking bloggers to remove offending posts. But like a metastasized cancer, the incriminating data had embedded itself into the nether reaches of cyberspace, etched into archives, algorithms and a web of hyperlinks.

    After failing to rid the negative sites on their own, most turned to a new breed of Web specialists known as online reputation managers, who offer to expunge negative posts, bury unfavorable search results and monitor a client’s virtual image. Now when they perform a Web search of themselves, the negative links are harder to find. […]

    ONLINE image fixers are not entirely new. For years now, big corporations and those with financial stakes in their Web presence have employed handlers to edit their online reputation — often as part of the array of services offered by a large public relations firm, lawyers or image consultants. […]

    ONCE something is online, it can be very difficult, if not impossible, to delete. So tweaking one’s online reputation usually boils down to gaming the search engines. Image-conscious people with an understanding of the Web’s architecture can try doing it themselves, by populating the Web with favorable content. That might involve setting up their own Web site or blog, or signing up for popular social networks like Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.

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