How to be an Internet secret agent: clean up your digital dirt!


One of the new things I am reading everywhere is the sudden realization that the pictures you post online will one day come back to haunt you. Colleges such as the University of Virgina even have a slide show warning parents and students about online stupidity (CNN article here).

While, I’ll admit I have touched on this before, I’d like to believe that social networking sites aren’t a novelty anymore, and will be around for a while. Maybe not the same exact sites, but the concept seems to be a mainstay.

According to TechWeb:

In a recent survey of 100 executive recruiters, 35 percent said they dropped a job candidate because of information uncovered online. That is up from 26 percent just one year ago, according to ExecuNet, an executive job search and recruiting network.

Either way, there may be stuff out there that you regret. Or one person may be at a party with you and snap a picture with their cell phone. Then you can watch in horror as your credibility goes out the window. A way to help prevent this is to keep your eyes and ears open in cyberspace. Below are 3 (or so) things you can do to prevent your digital dirt from being exposed

1. Spy with Technorati

Technorati is a search engine that indexes blogs and blog posts. They also have an RSS feed for any term you can dream up. Therefore, you can have Technorati shoot you a notice whenever some one’s blog contains your name

First: You are going to need to sign up for an account to take advantage of this feature.

Second: On the top bar click on “watchlists”

Third: On the left there is a text feild where you can enter in the term you want to monitor. I recommend your name in quotes. That way you wont get a notice if a blog mentions someone that shares your first name. If you have an uncommon last name enter that too.

Fourth: You name will be added to your watch list. Expand the capsule containing your name and click on “View in RSS format” at the bottom left.
2. Google News Spy

Google News aggregates thousands of blogs and a media outlets on one site. They also have a similiar service to Technorati that will notify you when a certain phrase appears in a story. To do this:

First: Search Google News for your name in quotes (and/or your last name)

Second: On the left will be a link to RSS and Atom feeds

3. Flickr Spy

Flickr is a very popular photo sharing service that allows users to tag their pictures with a phrase. If anyone takes a picture of you (and knows you) to post on Flickr, chances are they will tag it your name.

First: Enter in the following URL replacing LASTNAME with … your last name:

Second: Scroll all the way down, to the left will be an RSS icon

4. Google Yourself

I’m sure you have done this before, but if you haven’t, do it now. Also, be sure to put your name in quotes. See what is out there. I remember for the longest time if you Googled my name, a friend of mine’s Xanga would be the number 5 result. Nothing embarrasing, but imagine if she went on some sort of hateful rant.

5. Delete your old Usenet postings

If you were an old-school internet adopter you may have posted on Usenet (now Google Groups). To remove all of your posts on Usenet go here: .

Ideally a RSS feed from Facebook would be the holy grail of protecting yourself. There is no RSS feed integration yet, but you can bet that with the recent API that some smart guy will whip one up. For now, I recommend that you detag your photos.

eBay feeds are also available, but unless your are famous enough to have your belongings worth something, I wouldn’t sweat it too much.

I believe the main piece of advice I can give anyone is that we are part of a generation that can have their whole lives on the Internet without knowing. But if you keep alert and know the tools you can utilize out there, partying in college should be worry free.

Well… mostly…

[tags]college, party, frat, flickr, facebook, google, google news, technorati, watchlists, rss, feed[/tags]

2 Responses to “How to be an Internet secret agent: clean up your digital dirt!”

  1. Sam Jackson Says:

    I’d recommend using Google Alerts over just a feed, since you can get e-mailed alerts for whatever search terms you like. Set it to “as it happens” news alerts so you’ll find out as soon as it’s on Google News, and that way you don’t have to clog up your feed reader to worry about keeping tabs on news stories.

  2. Grant Says:

    Good post Blanda, some people just don’t have the whole concept of ‘the internet’… They think ‘oh, only people on facebook or only my friends can see my pictures’ but in all reality a person that could see a picture of an individual could easily save the picture and post it somewhere else… The only ‘secure’ way to have pictures on the internet is to not have them on the internet.