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How hard is it to disappear online?

Posted: 3:03 PM, Jul 10, 2019
Updated: 2019-07-10 23:34:25-04
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Applying for a job? Or maybe you want to get rid of those pictures of you and your former partner. Cyber experts warn, just because you deleted your uploaded photos, or your social media account, that doesn't necessarily mean they're gone for good.

“In my opinion, it's not easy to get all of your information deleted,” said Khaled Sabha, a Senior Lecturer at UW Milwaukee’s School of Information Studies.

Sabha says that means those pictures you had second thoughts about posting or tweets you wished you never published, can easily be brought back to life.

Sabha asked two of his students to demonstrate how that happens. One student posted an image on his Facebook account. After a few seconds, the same student then deleted it. Since it was available for all to see, even if for a few seconds, the other student was still able to locate the picture even though it was erased.

How is this possible?

“The file is stored. In other words, it is cached,” explained Sabha.

What exactly is a cache? It’s information stored in a hidden place.

“Even though the post was deleted, images and anything that is posted to Facebook, is still stored on their server,” explained the other student.

“It's going to be there for a very long time,” said Sabha.

Another lesson for job seekers out there, besides social media posts,

if you uploaded anything inappropriate online, there's a chance archive websites have it. One archive website in particular stores hundreds of billions of web captures.

“This can come back and haunt you especially if you apply for a job,” explained Sabha.

Making yourself vanish from the cyber world is difficult for another reason. Whether it's your property tax data or vehicle records, government agencies have been posting your public records online for decades.