A number of General Election candidates have already landed themselves in hot water due to hidden nasties found on their social media accounts, while several celebrities have previously come unstuck because of prior posts. Even ordinary members of the public can now expect future employers to scrutinise their online presence. So how do you clean up your social media accounts before applying for a job?
The first step is to make your accounts private. Under Facebook’s privacy settings it is the option to limit the audience for old posts on your timeline.
This means all posts that you’ve shared publicly in the past, or with friends of friends, will become private. Make sure to set future posts to private and turn on the option to review all your posts and things you have been tagged in before they hit your timeline.
Any posts you don’t want anyone, including your friends, to see, you can change to be viewed by “only me”, which means they aren’t deleted but remain invisible to anyone else.
You can change the individual privacy settings on your profile so only friends can see certain pictures — or hide old embarrassing photo albums entirely by changing them to “only me”.
Bear in mind, however, that any comments you’ve written on publicly-visible posts – such as those in public groups or on public pages – could still be available for users to find, even after you’ve taken these steps.
You can see a full list of where you’ve posted by looking through your profile’s activity log.
Before erasing your tweets, you can save a copy of everything you’ve ever tweeted, should you want a record before it’s gone. Under settings is the tab, “Your Twitter data”. Using this you can request a complete download of your Twitter history.
Once downloaded, you can use a free tool like tweetdelete.net to delete up to 3,200 of your most recent tweets.
You can archive a post you’ve shared to hide it from your profile and make it so your followers and other people on Instagram can’t see it.
When you archive a post, it keeps all its likes and comments. To archive a post, go to your profile, tap the post you’d like to archive and tap the three dots in the corner. If you chose to un-archive a post, the post will return to its original spot on your profile.
Even if you’ve deleted content from any of the sites above, it could still be visible on Google.
The easiest way to see what is popping up when employers search for you is to Google yourself. Some of the top hits are likely to be Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn and Pinterest. Once you’ve identified what’s showing up, you can decide what you need to hide from the public.
If something still appears on the search listings that has been deleted from a website and you want it removed, you can now apply to Google to remove outdated content.
To request a removal of outdated content visit: https://www.google.com/webmasters/tools/removals
If you want something removed for privacy reasons, or because you believe it may violate the law, visit: https://www.google.com/webmasters/tools/legal-removal-request
Also known as the “right to erasure”, the right to be forgotten rule gives EU citizens the power to demand data about them be deleted.
In the case of search engines, Europeans have had the right to request links to pages containing sensitive personal information about them be removed since 2014.
However, in September the EU’s top court ruled that Google does not have to apply the right to be forgotten globally. It means the firm only needs to remove links from its search results in Europe – and not elsewhere – in such cases.
When you make your request, Google will balance the privacy rights of the individual concerned with the interest of the general public in having access to the information, as well as the right of others to distribute the information.
For example, it may decline to remove certain information about financial scams, professional malpractice, criminal convictions, or public conduct of government officials.