Social networks have evolved from the days of MySpace to valuable, data-slurping machines that have information on everything from our friends and family to our voting habits.

When you apply for a new job, many employers will try to find and evaluate your social media presence to ascertain if you are a suitable candidate.

 

A misjudged tweet from years ago or an inappropriate Facebook photo can destroy future job prospects or ruin a career. A Google search that reveals an old conviction can make it more difficult to become hired, and -- whether true or not -- allegations of criminal conduct spread online can cause misery.

 

There's an idea that once something is online, it is immortal, immutable, and almost impossible to contain. Another way of saying this is that you should not put anything online you wouldn't want your grandmother to see, in case the consequences damage you or your prospects down the line.However, keeping your digital information in check is not just about information that you put online. Monitoring the passive data collection conducted by companies from you is important, too.

 

In the EU, citizens are able to request the removal of information from the Google search engine, as well as Blogger and other related Google-owned products.

In April, a man won a landmark case that forced Google to remove search results relating to a previous, spent conviction.

 

Google had previously declined to remove the results and the unnamed individual took the tech giant to court in the UK.

 

The court ruled in favor of the individual and required Google to accept the search engine link removal request.

 

This landmark ruling may prompt more cases of a similar nature, but it is worth noting that Google may not accept every request to remove links relating to you. While you might be motivated by anger, fear, or irritation, don't let this come across in your tone and attitude if contacting website managers. They're human and will respond to reasonable requests couched in reasonable terms. If you're looking for a name removal because you're job searching, tell them; this at least lets them know you have a genuine reason. Avoid shouting, threatening legal action (unless you mean it, and only after they prove uncooperative), or generally being a bad sport.

 

"When you make your request, we will balance the privacy rights of the individual concerned with the interest of the general public in having access to the information, as well as the right of others to distribute the information," Google says. "For example, we may decline to remove certain information about financial scams, professional malpractice, criminal convictions, or public conduct of government officials."Delete accounts. As already noted, it's possible that you've joined up to more sites than you'll ever remember.

 

The more well-known the site, however, the better it is to remove yourself from it when trying to disappear from the internet. This won't necessarily resolve "deep web" memory of you but it's a good start.

 

The following list is provided to help make it easier for you to know how to start ridding yourself of the principal sites:

  • Delete yourself from Facebook

  • Delete yourself from Twitter

  • Delete yourself from YouTube

  • Delete yourself from LinkedIn

  • Delete yourself from Flickr

  • Delete yourself from StumbleUpon

  • Delete yourself from MySpace

  • Delete yourself from PayPal

  • Delete yourself from eBay and any other online auction sites

  • Delete yourself from Craigslist and any other local advertising groups.

  • Delete yourself from your Alma Maters (school, college, and university). Only do this if you’re no longer enrolled.

  • Delete yourself from game sites. Remove all your information from all game sites. Yes, that includes all the virtual items you've won and hoarded all those years. Give it away to people you know want the stuff, if the site permits it.

  • Close associated accounts. Associated sites, such as Hootsuite, Tweetdeck, etc., are third-party applications that helped you to use your social networking accounts. Don’t forget about these.

    Close your personal sites. If you have created sites on the internet, you will need to remove them completely. Some of the sites you might have include:

  • Blogs. If you had a popular blog, keep in mind that snippets of it are probably already scattered throughout the internet. There’s nothing you can do about this.

  • Blogs within sites. Many sites offer blogs as part of joining; don't forget these if you have started any.

  • Groups like Ning, Gro.ups, Yahoo Groups, etc. Your ability to shut these down might be dependent on the participation of others.

  • Forum posts. This is likely to be next-to-impossible for many sites but do your best.

  • Articles that you have added to article mill sites. Your ability to remove these will be dependent on the terms and conditions of those sites.

     Delete search engine returns that feature you. Run searches on variations of your name or online name(s) to find anything you may have forgotten about and remove it manually. Remember, search engines also cache old sites, pages, and information -- including mentions of you -- that have since changed or been deleted; since it’s not in a search engine’s best interest to provide outdated results, these will generally go away by themselves with time. Consider using a professional company to remove your details from the internet. If contacting the myriad search engines one-by-one overwhelms you (and it is a very daunting prospect), you might be able to use a professional service to do the work for you. Of course, you will need to pay but it might be worth it if your reasons for removal are pressing. Look for a service that:

  • Can remove you from the "deep web" rather than just the obvious services.

  • If possible, has agreements in place with data source providers.

  • In some instances, however, you will need to contact search engines directly for the trickier removals. Be aware that removing yourself from search engines can be fairly detailed work that sometimes involves paperwork in the real world (ex. faxes, etc., to confirm your real identity). Major search engines and people search engines that you will probably want to look through include:

  • Google (read how to ungoogle yourself)

  • Yahoo

  • Bing

  • White Pages

  • US Search

  • Intelius

  • Yahoo People Search

  • Acxiom

  • People Finder

  • Zaba Search