Once they hit the internet, stupid mistakes can ruin your career and personal life.Privacy expert Frank Ahearn has helped with clients with everything from drunken college spring break photos to being wrongly identified in a criminal investigation. He says there are always ways to bury information online, even if it seems overwhelming.
“When you’re young, the minute you turn on computer you’re being tracked,” Ahearn said. “You email something and 500 people will see it, you walk down the block and there’s a camera.”
Getting Ahearn’s expert assistance comes with a hefty price tag (upwards of $10,000). Fortunately, he was kind enough to share some privacy tips with us. You can also buy his book, How To Disappear.
Here are Ahearn’s tips for getting out of sticky situations online:
1. Check out what’s out there. “Be proactive–not reactive,” Ahearn told us. “People come to me when the crap’s hit the fan but the idea is to know what’s out there before you’re being scrutinized for a job or whatever and making sure you’re always covered.”
2. Cut all ties to incriminating info. If someone tags you in an unflattering photo, don’t just untag it–defriend them, Ahearn says. Cut any kind of link to the bad information. Consider totally getting rid of social media accounts: “I don’t like social media and Anthony Weiner is a perfect example of why,” Ahearn said. “You push the buttons, you mess around and eventually it could ruin your life.”
3. Make up fake identities. Buy the rights to the random photos and words and tag them with your name to drive down old search results. Buying a domain name can cost as little as $20/year and is well worth the results, Ahearn says. For wealthier clients, Ahearn even hires models and creates false identities with the same names to divert internet searchers:
“I even create full families of models, mother, father and three kids,” Ahearn said. “That way if a wealthy client was afraid of kidnap, the criminals would think these images of models were the ones they were looking for.”
4. Create false blogs and news stories. Ahearn sets up websites that look legitimate and creates stories about people with the same name and age as his clients. This diverts any searchers to the new information. Ahearn gave an example of an experience with one client who did a porn movie in college:
“I used his name and built a character in New Jersey of the same age who talks about the porn industry and how in early 20’s he did a porn movie. So if his boss or wife types in his name they get the guy in New Jersey who’s a big porn freak. That diverts the attention away from him and creates fake digital identity.”
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