More publicity for in the New York Times Sunday Styles section, featuring lots of people worried about unflattering information about themselves on the web. How to get rid of it?

It turns out you often can’t. Once something is online, the best a lot of services can do is to push an unflattering item down in the Google rankings, from page one to page six or seven. No good investigator is going to stop looking at Google results after a couple of pages, so those photos will still get found if someone searches thoroughly.

We’ve already commented on another big takeout featuring when it was featured just last month in Time. We said that tracking over the web gets individuals wrong as often as it gets them right and that a good investigator can find out tons more about people than tracking software can.

It’s the same story here. Work all you want on erasing your past, but always assume we’ll find it anyway.

So if you have a picture of yourself wearing a hula skirt in a blizzard while sipping a beer through one of those straws attached to a container on your head, take a bit of advice from someone who might find it:

  • Not everyone cares that you got drunk in college. They probably did too.
  • Employers you should strive to work for are the ones like it when people they hire tell the truth at work and in interviews. At least, those are the employers I admire most.
  • Therefore, be ready with a frank explanation of the information. “I’m not proud of that photo, but I don’t do that kind of thing anymore” will serve you a lot better than stunned silence or a half-baked “that was taken out of context” when the photo is shown to you.
  • Think about turning controversy your way. A friend with an unusual name was in the middle of a messy whistleblower lawsuit and wondered how he could push that down the search rankings. My advice was to be proud of it and use it to his advantage: “You’ve seen the whistleblower suit,” he could offer to prospective employers. “I took on that big company, which means I won’t be swayed by cash in doing the right thing for you.”