Your online legacy
So, you want to start a blog or build a personal or business website? Great! Everyone should learn how to build an online presence. But first you should learn some things about the world wide web.
Logic would tell you that if you post something online that paints you in a bad light, you can erase it years later when you’ve come to your senses. You’re in the clear after that, right? Wrong. You may not know this, but the interwebs keeps a record of goings on… photographs of points in time in the history of the internet. This record is called the Internet Archive. Try it. Just visit the Wayback Machine, enter a website you’ve run for several years, and see what you come up with. If you’ve had the domain name for quite a few years, you’ll probably see examples of the different iterations of your website over the years. This is part of your online legacy.
So, if you used to write about your dating and love life like I did, you’re going to have to actively work to remove your information from the Wayback Machine. I tried contacting them but never heard back. So, basically, I’m planning to keep the two domains in question for the rest of my life and keep them hosted with a TXT file that blocks the Wayback Machine from accessing or archiving them. I personally think this organization should not be allowed to save and provide access to images and files that I have removed from the internet. My domains have not had hosted websites for 5-6 years, but I cannot escape this forced invasion of my privacy.
Just this second, I have found another place where your old shenanigans will be archived: DomainTools.com. Search for your domain name and click on “Screenshots” and you will see a historical record of what your home page looked like. Hopefully it doesn’t have that photo of you while exposing a lot of cleavage. These images are also aggregated in a separate website called Screenshots.com. It looks like, according to their FAQ, that there is no way to remove the old screenshots of your website unless they contain illegal material. So it’s there… FOREVER… with whatever text or images you put on it. A permanent record of whatever you posted. PERMANENT.
Facebook is not going to afford you much privacy either. Images uploaded to Facebook are stored on their server for the government or a talented hacker to release to the world.
My advice: don’t upload anything to the internet that you wouldn’t want a college admissions board or a potential employer to find. Because you will find it increasingly hard to remember what images or information you have uploaded to what web service.
That being said, you should periodically search for yourself on Google and see what comes up. If you find things that do not portray you in a positive image, try to either eliminate them or post enough positive things to outweigh it. As you can imagine, if you are arrested, and it ends up in the newspaper, you will have a hard time ever eradicating that from the burning memory of the web.
It sucks, I know. We should be able to express ourselves fully online, but the sad truth is that we don’t live in that world anymore. If you post racy photos of yourself online, people could find them decades later even after they’re deleted. If you spew racially charged or profanity-laced comments, they could come back to haunt you. If you want to truly express all your escapades and frustrations in writing, reach for a good old-fashioned paper journal and save the internet for more family-friendly content.