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Best Way To Clear Your Name Online? 888

Posted by timothy
from the name-on-the-watchlist dept.
An anonymous reader writes "About fifteen years ago, I did something that I've come to regret on a university computer system. I was subsequently interviewed by a Federal law enforcement agency, although no charges were pressed and I have no criminal record as a result of my actions. At the time, I discussed the matter with a friend of mine who went on to mention it briefly in a text file zine with a small distribution list. I've generally tried to keep a low profile online and until recently there's been very little information about me available from the major search engines. Unfortunately, that zine mention was picked up by textfiles.com at some point and mirrored across the world. I've tried to address this with the owner of the site, but couldn't get anywhere. Even if my name in the source file is altered, cached copies will continue to link me with my youthful mistake. Have any other Slashdot readers had a similar experience? What practical steps would your readers recommend to prevent this information from hurting me? I am concerned that future employers may hold my past actions against me should they look for me online as part of their screening process."
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Best Way To Clear Your Name Online?

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  • welleee (Score:1, Insightful)

    by SCVirus (774240) on Thursday December 10, 2009 @05:24PM (#30394376) Journal
    Be a man and take responsibility for your actions.
  • by Servaas (1050156) <captivayay@nOSPAM.hotmail.com> on Thursday December 10, 2009 @05:24PM (#30394378)
    Once its on the net, its on the net.
  • I Don't Worry (Score:5, Insightful)

    by headkase (533448) on Thursday December 10, 2009 @05:25PM (#30394398)
    And I'm an idiot to this day. Any employer who would hold a youth mistake against you is also an idiot. Especially when you can google their name in return... Nobody is free of skeletons, just try not to have some real bad ones.
  • by Lord Lode (1290856) on Thursday December 10, 2009 @05:25PM (#30394406)
    I'm not sure how bad it is, but if someone types your name in google and the ONLY thing they find is that one thing you don't, then it'll stand out. Try to use your name for everything, so that those things appear first in the results.
  • by Mal-2 (675116) on Thursday December 10, 2009 @05:26PM (#30394420) Homepage Journal

    If you're "John Smith", I think it will be pretty easy to disclaim being the SAME John Smith unless there are a lot of other matching details.

    On the other hand, if your last name is "Szczerbiak", maybe you can make a case for wanting to simplify the spelling and change it.

    Basically those are the first two options I can think of -- dodge, and go stand somewhere else.

    Mal-2

  • by linuxgurugamer (917289) on Thursday December 10, 2009 @05:26PM (#30394428) Homepage

    Not much you can do now, in regards to your online presence.

    If an employer asks, calmy explain that it was a youthful mistake. Emphasize that you have not done anything like that since, and that you have a clean record.

    Worst case: change your name.l

  • by Manip (656104) on Thursday December 10, 2009 @05:27PM (#30394446)

    Did you ever consider taking what you did and using it as a reason they SHOULD hire you?

  • Live with it. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by qoncept (599709) on Thursday December 10, 2009 @05:27PM (#30394450) Homepage
    Just live with it. A reasonable person can see the difference between a simple mistake years ago (especially if there is no conviction) and a habitual law breaker. I sold alcohol to a minor because I was too lazy to check an ID, and it turned out to be a sting. It didn't ruin my life.
  • smokescreen (Score:5, Insightful)

    by resfilter (960880) on Thursday December 10, 2009 @05:30PM (#30394500)
    if you manage to smokescreen your online identity with huge amount of positive material that bears your name (i.e. get your name on a lot of popular projects), with lots of cross linking, you will at the very least bury it into non-existance as far as search engines are concerned.

    if it's result number 999 on google, i doubt your average employer will read that far into it, and if they do, the amount of positive things that have been said about you will probably outweigh the one negative result

    and i'm not sure of US law in this manner, but is it legal to deny someone a job opportunity based on an alleged crime for which they were completely pardoned?
  • by TheRecklessWanderer (929556) on Thursday December 10, 2009 @05:31PM (#30394510) Journal
    Sucks when you are held responsible for your actions.
  • by The Real Nem (793299) on Thursday December 10, 2009 @05:32PM (#30394516) Homepage
    You just awoke a sleeping giant. As we speak thousands of once idle keyboards are feverishly trying away to unravel the mystery of just who you are and what you did - you even told them where to look. How fond were you of your name?
  • by MerlynEmrys67 (583469) on Thursday December 10, 2009 @05:33PM (#30394540)
    Baffle them with Bullshit.

    Create all kinds of web presence - create several blogs and crosslink them to high profile sites. Google juice the heck out of a personal web page you have. Post about work you do on various sites.

    It boils down to make it so the one incident is buried in googles results to the second page, and even then - they will see all the positive stuff on the first page and wonder if it is even you.

  • Re:Why bother? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Eric in SF (1030856) on Thursday December 10, 2009 @05:35PM (#30394574) Homepage

    That's just setting yourself up for getting fired later for lying to your prospective employer during the interview process.

  • by Achromatic1978 (916097) <robert@@@chromablue...net> on Thursday December 10, 2009 @05:38PM (#30394630)
    What? "Please cease and desist publishing this information about me that is true and was once published in a magazine."

    I think you mean 'ask politely', because I highly doubt a cease and desist would do much here beyond get you laughed at and provoke a lawyer to write a nice letter explaining the concept of the First Amendment to you.

  • by Anonymous Brave Guy (457657) on Thursday December 10, 2009 @05:41PM (#30394686)

    If no charges were ever brought and no criminal record is involved, I have to wonder whether the OP regrets the actions because they were of the "perceived to be wrong" kind rather than the "actually wrong" kind. In that case, yes, it does suck to be held responsible, particularly if word is getting around but you have no effective right to reply and set the record straight.

  • by pyster (670298) on Thursday December 10, 2009 @05:45PM (#30394778)
    You have to remember that the BBS days were full of hack/phreak/anarchy. Many of us were terrible children. If a kid did half the shit we did, or lied about doing, they would be carted off to gitmo never to be seen again. hell, they want to charge you with a crime for just having 'anarchy' files today.
  • by Anonymous Brave Guy (457657) on Thursday December 10, 2009 @05:46PM (#30394784)

    That doesn't mean you can't do what the PR agents do: generate higher-profile positive information. That makes it harder to encounter the negative stuff casually. It also changes the balance in the perception of the individual concerned if the negative stuff does also come to light.

  • White Noise (Score:2, Insightful)

    by nerd65536 (692353) on Thursday December 10, 2009 @05:47PM (#30394818) Homepage
    Bury the text file in search engine results by having a larger on-line presence. Write a blog, submit posts everywhere. Drown it in noise.
  • Re:welleee (Score:5, Insightful)

    by theIsovist (1348209) on Thursday December 10, 2009 @05:49PM (#30394864)
    Perhaps he has, but depending on the severity of his college mistake, he could find it hard to ever get another job again. Thanks to the internet's ability to never forget, he's doomed to be repeatedly punished for something he may have already paid for.
  • Re:welleee (Score:3, Insightful)

    by marcus (1916) on Thursday December 10, 2009 @05:50PM (#30394870) Journal

    I agree.

    Once you've matured you can face yourself, ultimately even laugh at yourself. Is it funny, what that stupid kid did?

    Any prospective employer will appreciate the explanation that you gave us.

  • Re:I Don't Worry (Score:4, Insightful)

    by John Whitley (6067) on Thursday December 10, 2009 @05:51PM (#30394886) Homepage

    If you consider something at "University" a Youth Mistake. Most people are generally at the age of adulthood since then.

    If you think someone at University at a typical post-high school age is an "adult", then practical experience, cognitive science [washingtonpost.com], and auto insurer's actuarial statistics have something quite different to say. Even ignoring brain maturation issues, in today's society that's the time when most folks are away from home and on their own for the first time, and are really just starting to figure out Which End Is Up.

  • Re:welleee (Score:5, Insightful)

    by kalirion (728907) on Thursday December 10, 2009 @05:51PM (#30394896)

    Any prospective employer will appreciate the explanation that you gave us.

    That's supposed to be sarcasm, right?

  • Re:welleee (Score:5, Insightful)

    by interkin3tic (1469267) on Thursday December 10, 2009 @05:59PM (#30395006)

    Be a man and take responsibility for your actions.

    Employers turn down applicants because of photos showing the applicant drinking beer in college. He was interviewed by law enforcement and no charges were filed according to the summary. It sounds like he did take responsibility already. Being denied employment for something trivial isn't "taking responsibility for one's actions," it's being screwed over.

    At some point employers are going to realize they're hiring -people- and that all of their employees have had lapses in judgement, and maybe then they'll have reasonable standards. For now though, many seem to think that if their lapses in judgment haven't made it onto the internet, that means they didn't happen, so they should only hire people with absolutely no dirt on their online profile.

  • by contrapunctus (907549) on Thursday December 10, 2009 @06:00PM (#30395032)
    bury it with new content with your name. nobody looks past the first few pages of a search.
  • by trims (10010) on Thursday December 10, 2009 @06:02PM (#30395060) Homepage

    First off, to everyone who knows me: This wasn't my story submission

    OK, now that's out of the way, I suffer from a related, but not quite so bad situation: I'm pretty much the only Erik Trimble on the Internet (that's not true, but close enough). Google me, and 90% of the first 100 returns point to me, in some way or not (FYI - the MySpace page for "leathercladdemon" isn't me. Really.) There's nothing bad there, it's just that my life has evolved, and having absolutely all of it retained and searchable over the past 20 years allows people to draw incorrect assumptions about me.

    This is all the privacy problems that the current young generations seem to be completely oblivious to, and that pundits like to ignore. People's perceptions of you matter, as much as we'd like to think otherwise. That doesn't mean it has to rule your life, but to think that such perceptions don't matter is foolish. The problem with retaining all this data out in the open is that it seriously harms the ability of people to change. And we want people to change. Lots of Very Bad Things happen to society if we forbid people (either legally, or de facto) from changing their paths in life. For just a minor example, look at what being convicted of anything does to one's entire life. It's not good to have complete personal transparency.

    I don't have a solution. At least not a simple one. But it needs to understood by everyone that it IS a problem.

    -Erik

  • Re:3 thoughts (Score:3, Insightful)

    by kalirion (728907) on Thursday December 10, 2009 @06:04PM (#30395084)

    1. Are you still friends with the writer of the zine? Ask them to send a DMCA notice. Don't know if it would work, but may be worth a shot.

    Could easily backfire through the Streisand Effect.

  • Not really. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by IANAAC (692242) on Thursday December 10, 2009 @06:07PM (#30395140)

    It sounds like he did take responsibility already. Being denied employment for something trivial isn't "taking responsibility for one's actions," it's being screwed over.

    Not really. We're in a bad economy right now, and as such employers are extremely picky. It won't always be that way. It just happens to be that way at the moment.

    Those with some years on us realize that it'll get better and past actions won't matter so much.

    And just maybe this person has learned to moderate his/her online behaviour because of it. That's not a bad thing.

  • by gznork26 (1195943) <gznork26@NOSpam.gmail.com> on Thursday December 10, 2009 @06:08PM (#30395142) Homepage

    I'm "Philip Zack", and as it happens a person with the same name was caught on video removing anthrax from a military base. Anyone who attempts to learn about me by googling my name will find lots of references to this other guy. I have no idea whether any of the jobs I didn't get were lost because an employer tried to do a quick and dirty background check, and didn't bother to ask whether what they found was me or not. Fortunately, the TSA didn't use google when I last flew, or I would have had a lengthy detour on the way to the aircraft.

  • Re:welleee (Score:3, Insightful)

    by gubers33 (1302099) on Thursday December 10, 2009 @06:08PM (#30395146)
    I disagree with that statement. This reminds me of the whole Micheal Vick ordeal when he signed with the Eagles. The man spent two years in prison for his crimes and many people are still punishing him for it. I believed if you paid your debt to society than why should you continue to be punished? Everyone makes mistakes in life... so if you are perfect then throw the first stone.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday December 10, 2009 @06:09PM (#30395170)

    It's like trying to get pee out of a pool.

  • by Anonymous Cowpat (788193) on Thursday December 10, 2009 @06:10PM (#30395178) Journal

    do you tell people before you put the pictures up that you can't be bothered to tweak a few pages every 2 months when it becomes desirable for the pictures to come down again?

    Or set the site up so that none of the pictures stay up for more than 12 months? (If people want them, they can snaffle them while they're still up)

    Or why not set up your robots.txt so that only the frontpage gets indexed?

    If you put potentially damaging pictures of people up on your website, you need to be responsible enough beforehand to recognise that you will need to 'budget' more time later to take them down again. If you can't do that, don't put the pictures up.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday December 10, 2009 @06:10PM (#30395180)

    You're pretty much a dick. From the clips I have seen of the movie, it's kind of homosexual in nature. What if those photos are hurting someone's image or reputation? What if their friends, loved ones or potential squeezes assume this person is gay now? That's awful. If you were talking any other piece, I'd say "That's not so bad"...but you are talking Rocky Horror Picture Show"....that's synonymous with freak.

    Have a heart. Don't be selfish.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday December 10, 2009 @06:12PM (#30395208)

    You intentionally mentioned textfiles.com and a university mistake on slashdot?
    I don't believe you are this retard.
    You couldn't have made a bigger advertisement for this.
    Are you sure you are the original person, or someone who wants to smear someone else?

  • Re:welleee (Score:3, Insightful)

    by mwvdlee (775178) on Thursday December 10, 2009 @06:12PM (#30395214) Homepage

    Posting your embarassing stories on slashdot is certainly the best step to trying to hide it.

    Be a man and take responsibility for your actions.

    ... and post an article on the web where you do take responsibility, then explain your current position on the issue in the same article.

  • Re:welleee (Score:5, Insightful)

    by eiMichael (1526385) on Thursday December 10, 2009 @06:13PM (#30395226)

    Yep. Everyone who breaks from the status quo should be punished by everyone with an axe to grind in perpetuity forever and ever.

    We have enough "innocent" people that we don't need those "guilty" people to help us.</sarcasm>

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday December 10, 2009 @06:13PM (#30395232)

    wow, you are a jerk

  • Re:welleee (Score:5, Insightful)

    by mwvdlee (775178) on Thursday December 10, 2009 @06:15PM (#30395266) Homepage

    Or you could just be honest and say that he had done some stupid things in the past but behaved well during the time he worked for you.

    It's no more your job to crucify somebody as it is to defend them.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday December 10, 2009 @06:21PM (#30395366)

    If you're lucky the forum has a 'reset password' feature that emails a new password to you. If the email address is still there, the email will go to you; you can then change the account to use some other email address, and eventually that will propagate to Google. Bonus effect: the ass who used your account will lose his access.

  • Re:welleee (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Moridineas (213502) on Thursday December 10, 2009 @06:21PM (#30395368) Journal

    Employers turn down applicants because of photos showing the applicant drinking beer in college.

    Really? I don't doubt you have an example, but what's the example?

    At some point employers are going to realize they're hiring -people- and that all of their employees have had lapses in judgement, and maybe then they'll have reasonable standards.

    Way to pigeonhole and stereotype people all to hell! You talk about the insensitivity of "employers" and you make it pretty clear you think they're all the same and all unreasonable. I find your opinion pretty unreasonable here!

    Sure, maybe there are some corporate stooges who are as you describe. I can tell you, at the small business I currently work (20 employers), nobody regularly googles applicants.

    Now, for a different perspective, what is a "reasonable perspective." If you have two people who both interview well, both have the same skill set, similar credentials, etc, yet one of them did some unsavory stuff in the past while the other did not. Who would you PERSONALLY hire. Forget the context of a big impersonal business or what not, think about how you would approach the situation in real life. You're hiring a contractor to fix your house. This person will be in your house for hours at a time for days if not weeks. You google two contractors who both come highly recommended.
    When you google one contractor, you find positive reviews. When you google the other contractor, you find positive reviews, and some bad deed in the past (fill in the blank).

    Which contractor do you personally choose? Can you honestly tell me that past deed XYZ doesn't have the slightest importance to you?

  • Re:welleee (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Yadyn (1374599) on Thursday December 10, 2009 @06:30PM (#30395518) Homepage

    Employers turn down applicants because of photos showing the applicant drinking beer in college.

    I don't know about you, but I wouldn't want to work for any place that turned me down because of some brief Google image search. That kind of shallow screening tells me all I need to know about them. "Unfortunate reality" be damned, I'm allowed to have a private life outside of work, thankyouverymuch.

    At any rate, it sounds like this guy needs to smother this one little bad brief mention from years ago with a ton of really good, awesome stuff. What exactly are you doing now? Nothing? Is a law enforcement interview really the most exciting and noteworthy thing you've done in the last few years? If so, then maybe that should be on the first page of results when they Google your name.

  • Specifically... (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday December 10, 2009 @06:34PM (#30395584)

    Create as much obviously spam content as you can with your name in it. Then distribute it as widely as possible. High a sleazy SEO firm to mirror thousands of instances of this crap content all over the Internet. Write a perl script to automatically generate it, with your name scattered liberally throughout, based on any unholy combination of out-of-copyright literature, online freely available tax lot data, bad poetry, and random Wikipedia articles. Post it on blogs. Post it in forums. Bury your real identity in spam!

    When you're done, not only will no one be able to find the original offending zine, but even if they do they won't be able to tell if the info is real.

    Alternatively, change your name to "Mike Jones," for which Google already returns 2,390,000 results in only 0.24 seconds.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday December 10, 2009 @06:36PM (#30395612)
    yea, your an asshole.
  • Re:welleee (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Aqualung812 (959532) on Thursday December 10, 2009 @06:37PM (#30395620)

    I'd certainly lean towards the one that never got caught for anything... even if he's just as devious, at least he's not dumb enough to get caught!

    No, I want the one that would get caught. I don't need someone stealing from me, I want to catch them. At the same time, I'm not going to force my employees to do something illegal, so their ability to break the law well doesn't help.

  • by GodfatherofSoul (174979) on Thursday December 10, 2009 @06:37PM (#30395622)
    Your mother never taught you the difference between what what can be said and what should be said, did she? Very jerkwad-ish of you :(
  • Re:welleee (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Restil (31903) on Thursday December 10, 2009 @06:38PM (#30395640) Homepage

    Well, in all fairness, it wasn't one mistake, it was at least two. First, he screwed up. Then, after that had more or less blown over, he decided to brag about it.. I mean "mentioned it to a friend who published the details of the exploit using real names". Congrats. You're notorious now. You have your street cred.

    If you're REALLY concerned, take comfort in the fact that you are not the only one to ever screw up, and with luck and a long period of time without a history of further screwups, past indiscretions will be all but forgotten.

    However, as I see it, you have three options. Either forget about it and hope nobody finds out, embrace it as a life lesson and show how you used the fallout from that event to learn to better take responsibility for your actions.... Or bury it. Publish a huge volume of information to the internet using your real name so eventually anyone searching for you will only find the good stuff and hopefully will get bored before they find that one blemish.

    -Restil

  • Re:welleee (Score:2, Insightful)

    by sexconker (1179573) on Thursday December 10, 2009 @06:41PM (#30395696)

    Yep. Everyone who breaks from the status quo should be punished by everyone with an axe to grind in perpetuity forever and ever.

    We have enough "innocent" people that we don't need those "guilty" people to help us.

    Convicted Child Murderer: Hi, I'm calling about that ad for a babysitter. Is the position still available? But that was 15 years ago! I had postpartum!

    No on has an axe to grind here - they have asses to protect. I'm glad someone is willing to take the risk with people who have fucked up in the past, but a PHB isn't going to hire a malicious script kiddie. A parent isn't gonna hire some lady who drowned her own kids.

    The situation presented is not in line with any punishment. It's not like he's forced to register on a cyber crime list for the rest of his life, and have no access to a computer, etc.

    What he fears experiencing would not be punishment - it would be a simple, logical consequence.

  • Re:welleee (Score:5, Insightful)

    by b96miata (620163) on Thursday December 10, 2009 @06:42PM (#30395720)
    The point is, there's a difference between saying "Michael Vick should be allowed to play in the NFL, provided any team wants him" and "All references to his arrest, trial and conviction should be purged from the archives"

    This guy did some stuff in his past that got him checked out by the feds, and people found out about it. It's up to potential employers to decide whether or not that is relevant to them. I may agree that the past should often just be left as the past, but I don't think that means everyone else has to share my opinion, or be denied the opportunity to form their own. (which is essentially what the OP wants)
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday December 10, 2009 @06:45PM (#30395764)

    The difference is that the audience probably doesn't care to post the names of the performers. Personally I think you just like being an ass.

  • Re:welleee (Score:5, Insightful)

    by RichardJenkins (1362463) on Thursday December 10, 2009 @06:46PM (#30395800)

    Publish a huge volume of information to the internet using your real name so eventually anyone searching for you will only find the good stuff and hopefully will get bored before they find that one blemish.

    THAT's why I go for +5 insightful

  • by Grail (18233) on Thursday December 10, 2009 @06:47PM (#30395802) Journal

    Any employer that chooses to judge an employee by good or bad stuff they did 10 years ago, is stark raving insane.

    10 years ago, the person didn't have two children and a spouse and a house with a 30 year mortgage. That kind of change in life status changes people's priorities. 15 years ago she might have been a party animal, with photos on Facebook showing her drunken charades with a bunch of equally sillly friends, these days she might not even touch alcohol since her dedication to her children is more important to her.

    People do change.

  • Re:welleee (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Beardo the Bearded (321478) on Thursday December 10, 2009 @06:48PM (#30395810)

    I don't drink, you insensitive clod!

    Why does that make me prissy and self-righteous? Are you assuming that I'm either a preaching Mormon or Muslim? Neither are true. I simply have enough self-confidence that I don't require alcohol to cut loose and have a good time without worrying about what other people think about me.

    Also, the money. I've saved thousands of dollars by not drinking. It's up to you -- if you want to piss your cash away, I'm not going to even try and stop you.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday December 10, 2009 @06:49PM (#30395834)

    That last paragraph reads like this:

    I take pride in damaging people's reputations.

    You're a prick, Shawn McHorse. I wouldn't hire you to mow my lawn. Eat that, google.

  • Bullshit.
    If they are in public then too bad. If they gave permission, either explicit or implicit, then too bad. If they where in a situation where it's to be expected by a reasonable person, then too bad.

    Trying to hide or change history of ANY kind is a bad thing.

    No one is under any obligation to change something just becasue someone doesn't like it. It's thinking like yours that holds things back.

  • by EvanED (569694) <evaned AT gmail DOT com> on Thursday December 10, 2009 @06:56PM (#30395932)

    Trying to hide or change history of ANY kind is a bad thing.

    And so would denying a job for a stupid-ass reason like the candidate used to be in Rocky Horror. But I could definitely see it happening. And unfortunately, two wrongs can sometimes make, well, a less-wrong.

  • by Forge (2456) <kevinforge@@@gmail...com> on Thursday December 10, 2009 @07:04PM (#30396060) Homepage Journal
    Recommendations must, above all else be honest in regards to what YOU know.

    As the response above suggests you can say "He did some stupid things in the past, but later he worked very well for me, and I think based on this that he is now a high quality person." Yada... Yadd..

    Lay the facts on the table along with your opinion.

    As for the original topic. The AC's mistake was keeping a low profile online. HR will be suspicious of anyone with no online identity at all. Especially for tech jobs. However. Let's say you apply for a Sysadmin position, and they search on your name. That search brings back a flood of discussions, forum posts and debates, most of them technology related. After the 1st few pages of boredom they will announce: "This guy is a geek and spends his online time in the company of geeks."

    An ancient blog post about a criminal investigation would probably get lost in the torrent.
  • Re:welleee (Score:4, Insightful)

    by BungaDunga (801391) on Thursday December 10, 2009 @07:07PM (#30396108)

    "...you are presumed to be innocent."

    In the eyes of the law, sure. Not in the eyes of other people, not if he ended up basically saying "Yeah, I did it." in print somewhere.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday December 10, 2009 @07:11PM (#30396174)

    That's not very nice. You could at least remove their last names so they don't show up in Google.

    No offense, but it kind of sounds like you're just being a dick.

  • by JesseMcDonald (536341) on Thursday December 10, 2009 @07:20PM (#30396292) Homepage

    IMHO just as thre's a 7-year stature of limitations on law, so too should employers have a limitation on how far back they can dig. Anything that predates this decade should be irrelevant.

    So when a board of directors is reviewing the candidates for their new CEO, they should just ignore the fact that eight years ago one candidate drove his company into the ground and ran off with all its assets, while another has a spotless record? Face it, history matters. Actual reform and rehabilitation should be considered, but you don't get a free pass just because it's been a few years since your last incident. If you want to take a chance on a candidate with questionable history that's your prerogative, but others retain the right to take that history into account.

    Moreover, all else being equal, a candidate with a known history of embarrassing (or criminal) behavior should expect to lose to a candidate with a clean record. I agree that society should be less sensitive to such things, but it is not unreasonable for employers to prefer candidates who have shown themselves to be conscious of their public image, and thus less likely to harm the company's reputation. If you want to be hired despite your history you must be prepared to justify the heightened risk they are taking by hiring you. (If society were less sensitive then this justification would be easier to make.)

  • Re:welleee (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Tynam (1284066) on Thursday December 10, 2009 @07:26PM (#30396370)
    True, but social behaviour can - and does - change over time. It is, demonstrably, useful to fight for less-unjust patterns of behaviour - if you've identified one. Is life fair? Obviously not. Can it be made less-unfair, with effort? Yes.
  • Re:welleee (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday December 10, 2009 @07:48PM (#30396608)
    I was not aware people don't have the right to hold whatever opinions they pleased. I don't care if he "paid his debt to society". That means nothing to me, it's a legality about his prison term. You can't force someone to associate with someone they abhor. Michael Vick is a repellent, barely human being and he has a long row to hoe before myself or many others hold him in anything but the basest contempt. I'm not disputing his legal right to work for whomever he can convince to hire him, but I'm also not going to support him or anyone who endorses or supports him either,
  • by xaxa (988988) on Thursday December 10, 2009 @07:48PM (#30396610)

    When I was ~16 I Googled my name, and the top result was a guide to different kinds of cannabis, drug equipment etc. The second result was an Amazon recommendation list for the same. The third was an online petition to legalise weed.
    None of these were me, it's some American guy with the same name.

    I set up my own website, and posted on some technical mailing lists about a year later. Soon after that, and the drug guy's links are several pages along in the Google hits.

  • Re:welleee (Score:2, Insightful)

    by toadlife (301863) on Thursday December 10, 2009 @07:59PM (#30396720) Journal

    Why does that make me prissy and self-righteous?

    You not drinking doesn't make you prissy and self-righteous, but judging by the rest of your post, something sure does.

  • Re:welleee (Score:3, Insightful)

    by reason (39714) on Thursday December 10, 2009 @08:00PM (#30396724)

    Your blog post is not "private". Your memoir in a "text file zine with a small distribuiton list" is not "private".

    Sure. We know this now. How many understood it 15 years ago? That it was not only not private, but that it would be available to *everyone*, *forever*? And not just theoretically available, but readily findable?

  • Re:welleee (Score:2, Insightful)

    by psithurism (1642461) on Thursday December 10, 2009 @08:06PM (#30396778)
    Sure, you're using sarcasm, but I think your sarcasm actually reflects the opinion of a large amount of the populace. Why should we hire a sex offender applicant when hey, 99% of our applicants are not sex offenders? Why should we hire Bob hacker, when 60% of our applicants have nothing bad turn up when we Google them? We really don't need those guilty people!

    Besides that if you do stretch out your hand and hire Bob Hacker, the Feds just might need access to your email servers to keep tabs on him; theres just no room in the world for guilty people.
  • Re:welleee (Score:5, Insightful)

    by dadorg (941821) on Thursday December 10, 2009 @08:06PM (#30396782)
    The internet never forgets. The offending material will always be there. The best thing to do is to bury it. Become an active participant on multiple forums, everything from albacore tuna fishing to zoology (avoid politics and religion). Use your real, full name. Post as much as you can type. In about a year, a search for you will turn up 20 pages of friendly links, most people will stop after page 3. The offending articles will be stale dated and buried at the bottom of the pile. Post to professional forums the most but also non-professional forums so they see that you have a real life as well. You could also try to publish some articles in professional journals (online and dead tree), they should score higher than forum posts. Good Luck.
  • by DigiShaman (671371) on Thursday December 10, 2009 @08:38PM (#30397072) Homepage

    HR will be suspicious of anyone with no online identity at all. Especially for tech jobs

    It may come a shock to all of you, but I do *not* have a Facebook, MySpace, or Twitter account. It's a waste of time for one. Second, I don't want anything I've said to be taken out of context and used against me. If a company (HR more specifically) doesn't want me because I CHOOSE to remain anonymous, fuck em!!! I value my privacy as I regard it as an intimate concept.

    As for my Slashdot account, I still consider it anonymous. It's not like any of you guys know my real name. Yet, google will reveal quite a bit of my history on this forum. Clearly, my actions are justified in this matter.

  • by pla (258480) on Thursday December 10, 2009 @08:39PM (#30397076) Journal
    I'm sure I could honor requests to remove all of these photos, but I simply don't want to. It involves a lot of time and effort on my end, to accomplish something that's actively taking away from things I take pride in myself.

    So basically, you take pride in getting people turned down for jobs in a shit economy because you won't take a few 10YO pics offline. Wow dude, you need to meet some of these people in a dark alley.

    Of course, if you consider yourself such an awesome photographer that you just can't bear to ruin the artistic integrity of your site, you could always, y'know, redact their names.

    As for how you got modded "insightful", just... Wow. I hope you just managed to sneak a troll post (or some form of sarcasm I totally missed) past the mods, because if serious, you really do suck as a human being.
  • by SpeedBump0619 (324581) on Thursday December 10, 2009 @08:44PM (#30397116)

    As a thought experiment: if your local paper sent someone to the show to take pictures for publication would they get releases from the actors? I'm guessing they would, which would put the performance at least in the grey area between public and private. I'm betting (some of) those performers wouldn't have gone to the opera wearing their RHPS lingerie.

    Privacy has a contextual component. In this case the context is a performance made *to a like-minded audience*. You can't separate the context of these pictures from the situation in which they were taken. Publishing them openly is a change in context, and is, rightly, being seen as a breach of the performer's privacy expectations.

    If it's really only for you and the cast then put it all behind a membership wall. People inactive for too long no longer get access, but you and your cast can see anything from any time. Maybe even allow past cast members to request access. This has the advantage that it doesn't breach the parameters of the original context.

  • Re:welleee (Score:2, Insightful)

    by FlyMysticalDJ (1660959) on Thursday December 10, 2009 @08:53PM (#30397196)
    You honestly do come off as self-righteous from your response. That being said, I don't think that EVERYONE who chooses not to drink is self-righteous. Many people make many choices. Drinking may be heavily woven into our society, but not everyone does it. I know many people who choose not to drink, and don't wear it as a badge to say they're better than everyone else. Self-righteousness is independent of the activity. There are plenty of things to be self-righteous about. take your pick, environment, social equality, sex, race, sexuality, vegetarianism, and the list goes on and on. The point is, if you choose to do ANYTHING you perceive to be good for humanity, or the earth or whatever cause you're fighting for solely for the chance to hold it above others' heads, you've missed the point.
  • by Hatta (162192) on Thursday December 10, 2009 @09:33PM (#30397468) Journal

    The submitter says that no charges were pressed, charges were pressed against Jesse Hirsch. They were however later dropped.

    The submitter says that he was interviewed by feds. "52 division", who arrested Jesse Hirsch is a division of the Toronto Police.

    The submitter says that he mentioned it to a friend, who went on to briefly mention it in a zine. The article you linked to is extensive and written in the first person.

    So it's not a perfect match, and I wouldn't be surprised if the submitter was not entirely accurate. I don't think anything conclusive can be drawn here. If it is Jesse Hirsch, I wouldn't worry too much about it. Reading the file, it looks like a clear overreaction by the authorities.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday December 10, 2009 @09:38PM (#30397504)

    If so, I'm not surprised. I was going to try practically the same search terms -- just for the challenge -- and then I thought better of it. "The guy doesn't need the hassle of it showing up on /.", I thought. The second thing I thought was, "Unfortunately, someone has probably already done this and maybe also posted the results."

    If that's the guy, it was crazy to post this on /. with a specific web site where your indiscretion was mentioned. You were probably safe without the site, but with it -- wow. Someone could just crawl the whole site and grep it if Google didn't do the job. Why on Earth was it necessary to know the site to understand the story or the question you posed? It wasn't. I'm really sorry, but the first lesson you need to learn if you don't want it to get spread around is: shut up about it! The second lesson is: if you must talk about it (it was a good question, after all), be as vague as possible. There should be nothing beyond the bare minimum needed.

    And if it isn't the guy, look at that stuff anyway. Where do you think someone could go next with a name in hand? The warning here is important regardless of whether it's accurate: the web's memory is deep as an ocean, and search engines these days are such that with 15 minutes of searching you could find practically every message in a bottle ever tossed into it. Google is like having a fishing net the size of the ocean. It takes a lot more than AC and some vague descriptions to truly anonymize something on the web.

  • Re:welleee (Score:5, Insightful)

    by GrpA (691294) on Thursday December 10, 2009 @10:09PM (#30397724)

    Keeping in mind that a LOT of people did stupid things when they were younger and never got caught or had their name linked with what they did.

    I find that the people who hold onto blame the longest are the same people who were the ones that "Didn't get caught" and they almost feel compelled to point the finger to move attention away from their own activities.

    Anyway, sad to say but life's like that... Most people are bigoted to some extent and you can't change that... Move from job to job and prove your worth. Do the opposite to what you were linked with. Give people a reason to believe you've changed and use them as a reference.

    GrpA.

  • Ehem.. (Score:2, Insightful)

    by formfeed (703859) on Thursday December 10, 2009 @10:17PM (#30397784)
    I never had sex with that woman.
  • by Nithendil (1637041) on Friday December 11, 2009 @12:03AM (#30398254)

    Of course he is under no obligation. He is still an asshole for it though.

  • Bury it (Score:3, Insightful)

    by br00tus (528477) on Friday December 11, 2009 @12:03AM (#30398256)
    The first thing I would do is try to bury it. Get your name out there on the Internet with lots of nice things attached.

    I have never written anything that can be used against me but idiots, who I don't even know, have, and have done so years ago. Sometimes I have been successful having the content pulled but sometimes it is based in other countries. Who knows how it has affected me - no one has ever mentioned it to me, but perhaps someone looking at my resume will see something they don't like and I don't get a call.

    So my name is on lists in lots of nice capacities - I patch some program, I help this or that project out. If you can Google your name, and one of the first 50 responses is something bad about you, you're probably in trouble. If a few of the first 50 are patches for some software, you helpfully answering someone's question etc., that is better.

    I've succeeded in removing my name from a few places, I suggest you being nice about it, and in some cases, dishonest about it.

  • by drosboro (1046516) on Friday December 11, 2009 @12:04AM (#30398258)

    Or, it could be some guy who doesn't like Jesse Hirsh much, wanting to bump the Anarchives story up nearer the top of Google's search results to tick him off. In which case, thanks for helping.

  • by dontPanik (1296779) <ndeselms@@@gmail...com> on Friday December 11, 2009 @01:29AM (#30398604)
    You are such an idiot for comparing "rewriting history" to "dude dancing around in lingerie."
  • Re:3 thoughts (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday December 11, 2009 @02:10AM (#30398760)

    Some thoughts:

    1. Are you still friends with the writer of the zine? Ask them to send a DMCA notice. Don't know if it would work, but may be worth a shot.
     

    No, no NO! Do not abuse the DMCA. It is an evil law, and abusing it opens you to much negative karma (real-life karma, not slashdot karma).

  • by Issarlk (1429361) on Friday December 11, 2009 @06:46AM (#30399808)
    How hard is it to simply remove people's name in the page text? Google doesn't (yet) do face recognition on photographs.
  • Re:3 thoughts (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday December 11, 2009 @07:06AM (#30399896)

    1. Are you still friends with the writer of the zine? Ask them to send a DMCA notice. Don't know if it would work, but may be worth a shot.

    Are you insane? Absolutely do not do this. Nothing would be more likely to increase the visibility of the problematic information.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Streisand_effect [wikipedia.org]

  • by identity0 (77976) on Friday December 11, 2009 @10:48AM (#30401642) Journal

    Am I reading this right? You get "a half dozen requests per year on average" - or 1 every couple of months - to take down photos, and that's too much work for you?

    If you can't take that much time to admin your site, which is minimal, you shouldn't be posting them up in the first place.

    Please practice responsible web administration.

  • by PsyberS (1356021) on Saturday December 12, 2009 @11:12PM (#30419362)

    3) Deny, deny, deny. It's still a good option. :) If a prospective employer comes across it, laugh about it. "Ya, I found my name, and saw what that other guy did. It's funny, but no it's not me."

    I generally agree with this statement, but do keep in mind that if you lie in an interview or on your job application this is typically grounds for dismissal (if/when they figure out its a lie).

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