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How do I clean out a High School Student's web history before they start applying to college?

Posted on 2015-01-20
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Last Modified: 2015-02-04
Client's child will be applying to colleges this year.  The kid has posted a few things on Instagram and the like, and the mother would like  everything  cleared out so that colleges won't be able to find anything that would could be considered a reason for rejecting an application.

I have heard radio ads about business services that cleanse the reputation.

What services or software are around that could wipe out almost everything under this kid's various online identities?  If there's a fee, so be it.

Thanks.

Larry
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Question by:computerlarry
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by:Jason C. Levine
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If this is being done proactively, just get the child to log in to their accounts and start deleting stuff that could be seen as questionable and also set privacy levels as necessary to ensure the college rep can't see the account.  No need to pay a fee.

If you are hell-bent on giving away the client's money, search for "Reputation Management" and you will find a ton of companies that do this on the individual and/or professional levels.  Generally speaking, you give them access to the social media accounts and they go through and scrub things for you.  The benefit comes from them being (hopefully) more knowledgeable and therefore more thorough than the kid would be and they may also have the foresight to look for cached copies of the content.

But if there is compromising information or photos out there on other user's accounts, this task gets a lot harder.
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by:John Hurst
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It is generally not possible to eradicate information on the internet on any permanent basis. I would skeptical of advertisements suggesting they can.

Better to stop posting altogether and then have a sensible story of why the postings are there and why the posting stopped (should be obvious).
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by:computerlarry
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What to do about a photo that appears on Tumblr, and has been shared by hundreds, and that was originally submitted last year, and has the kid's Instagram name?   If I go to the tumblr page, and click on the user name that appears to have submitted the photo, I get a broken link message from Instagram.

It's possible that her mother may have had her delete the original.  I am checking into this.

How about changing the kid's name on Instagram?  So that even if somebody searches for the user name on Instagram, they reach a private page, with a generic photo, and a different name?
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by:John Hurst
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Good luck with changing the name (if you can). I can still find stuff I posted 20 years ago (nothing nefarious, of course).
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by:Leslie Bloom
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I echo what @John Hurst said above - this is very difficult to guarantee removing information from the internet.

In the meantime, set all accounts (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr) to private... making it so only directly approved friends can view. It also might be time for them to have a talk about what is/isn't a good idea to post online, although that's far from your purview.

RE: How about changing the kid's name on Instagram?  So that even if somebody searches for the user name on Instagram, they reach a private page, with a generic photo, and a different name?
If you change your username on Instagram, your followers still see you and have access to all of your posts/profile, it is just listed under a different name. But this does send people who search for the old name to a page error.

Good luck, tough task!
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it_saige earned 125 total points
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Agreed with John Hurst and Leslie Bloom.  Once any data is released into the public domain (especially on the internet) you will *never* be able to remove all references to it.

First, the internet primarily works based on a Caching system (in this way loading sites can be done more quickly).  These caches are stored *virtually* everywhere (the local computer, the local server, the hosting server, the search engine server, etc.)

Second, the internet is primarily a link-back/ping-back driven entity.  Where data that is stored on one site is referenced on other sites by either direct link or ping back.

Finally, the internet is essentially a large unattended data backup system utilizing incremental based backup logic.  What I mean by this, is that data that is stored on site a is incrementally stored on site b.  This happens using a multitude of technologies (scraping, direct copy/paste, etc.).

-saige-
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