New Web service can erase your embarrassing past
A new online service called ReputationDefender.com vows to eliminate embarrassing stuff about you on the Web -- for a fee.
Whether it will work or not, the news of this service alone has at least purged a months-long recurring nightmare from the archives of my subconscious.
Something tells me other Digital Slobs might recognize its general theme.
In it, I walk into Human Resources, and the exec behind the desk tells me she's almost ready to give me a high-paying job with a company car and a corner office, but before she hands me the signing papers, she has one question.
A sense of foreboding washes over me. I want to run away, but my interview shoes seem glued to the floor. She hands me a printout.
"Is this your bare behind, second from left, sticking out of a convertible on the streets of Cancun on April 4, 2002?"
"Oh," I say, "So you've heard of MySpace?"
Vital detail I forgot to mention: She has horns sprouting out of her head.
"Answer the question!" she fumes.
"No, it's not!" I reply, choking past the lump in my throat. "Mine's the third one from the left!"
Then I wake up, unable to face whatever my imagination has in store for me next.
Until recently, we working-class Slobs found solace in snickering about how upper management knows about as much about the Net as we know about the feel and smell of a Mercedes S-Class sedan.
But while we were busy venting our envy behind their backs, they were learning how to Google our forever-digitized wild sides online -- suddenly hip enough to find that picture of us passionately kissing an Ernest Hemingway statue in Key West, but not hip enough to accept it.
In fact, a CareerBuilder.com survey says 26 percent of hiring managers now use such searches to cull job seekers.
Thus, ReputationDefender. com offers to ease our minds by erasing our blush-inducing zeroes and ones from the binary universe -- for a price.
Wired.com reports that the site's monitoring service costs $10 to $16 a month, plus $30 for each successful seek-and-destroy mission.
Clearly, its long-range features plan hinges on a vast market of bar-hoppers continually remembering their camera phones but forgetting their low tolerance for tequila.
Or, it might just be planning on systematically bankrupting Paris Hilton in 12 to 18 months.
Regardless, some doubt it can deliver. On the Net, old data never dies, it is merely "cached," much the same way mollusk fossils are forever "cached" in the Grand Canyon.
The site claims it can extract these items, too, but one of its several FAQ qualifiers says, "In case it is some comfort, cached content is generally much harder for people to find, so it will have less impact on a person's reputation."
So, until résumé checkers can mine data as well as Chloe -- senior analyst at CTU on the hit show "24" -- ReputationDefender clients can sleep easy.
Maybe. But if you put horns on Chloe, she looks a lot like that exec in my dream.
So even if I can afford to add the cost of covering my Digital Age tracks into my next travel budget, I'll steer clear of Cancun and convertibles from now on, just to be safe.
Reach Star-Bulletin columnist Curt Brandao
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