John Robb: How Do I Clean Up My Online Image?

Blog Wisdom, Cultural Intelligence
John Robb

Question: How do I clean up my online image?

Lots of people seem to be getting value out of these posts on personal resilience, so I will keep adding them.


Do you know of any service that will check a person’s exposure on the web? I wasn’t always as careful with my online activities as I’m trying to be now, and it’d be nice to know what sort of damage control I’m looking at in terms of going forward with my personal brand.


Type your name into Google.  Take a look at the first 3-5 pages of links you get (as well as the images).  If you don’t see that much, don’t worry about it.  If you see anything that you control and can delete, do it now. It will take a couple of months, but it will eventually fade away.  Other than that, there isn’t much you can do about it.

Here’s what I recommend:  The BEST way to deal with old info is to ignore it. Focus on the future. Put up info on what you are doing every day (if possible).   Put up project updates, pictures, short paragraphs on something you are working on, etc.  It’s something, once you get the hang of it, you can do in ten minutes. Something you can do every other day or so (think of it like exercising, it’s a long term investment in your future).  In a short period of time, you will have so much info on the Web about you, that anything that came before it is, for all intents and purposes, invisible.

Like life.  Don’t waste time trying to fix the past. It’s a waste of time and nobody really cares anyway. It is what you are doing now that matters.

Phi Beta Iota:  For over a decade now, investigators have been having difficulty comprehending that 21st Century intelligence demands both multinational (“foreign”) engagement, and an active presence on the web.  Now that the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) is in charge of clearance investigations — including DoD clearance investigations — considerable improvements are evident.  Time from fingerprinting to clearance adjudication is down to 59 days–MAJOR improvement–and “foreign” contacts of concern are now properly defined as only those involving money or emotional attachment–another MAJOR improvement.  Less clear is how investigators deal with personal web profiles.  In the ideal, they should understand that just about anything goes on the web when one is NOT an employee (pre-clearance process), and thereafter[once employed], anything goes LESS violations of the Hatch Act or violations of one’s newly-signed oath to protect secrets.   We still have commanders and senior civilians who think that being visible on the web is the equivalent of being a declared communist and therefore subject to death by drone without due process.  The US Government is at the beginning of its learning curve with respect to Open Everything, but OPM is off to a very good start in unscrewing the clearance process that was allowed to atrophy for decades.