I must have some uncanny ability to hide bottles whenever someone busts out a camera, because I know I'm tagged in more than a few drunken photos on Facebook. According to Social Sweepster, though, the most scandalous images of me online include an Engadget group photo -- the caption "final group shot" raised a red flag -- and a pic of my mom and I drinking out of skull-shaped glasses. Seriously.
Social Sweepster, currently in beta, is a web app that uses language-processing and its own algorithm to comb your social media profiles for photos and text with "incriminating potential." It looks for beer bottles, bongs and other party paraphernalia, along with words that could be construed as "potty language." You simply sign in, allow the site access to your Facebook and Twitter accounts and specify how far back in time you'd like to search. Tom McGrath, the founder and CEO, told me that the service will scan Instagram and other platforms down the line, but currently only the two social networks are supported.
When you receive an email with the results, you'll see images and text divided by high, medium and low confidence, indicating how sure the site is that the content is objectionable. (Objectionable, of course, being a very subjective matter.) You can filter results to see only photos or text, and you can exclude results you've already seen. You'll have the option to delete tweets directly, while you'll have to hop over to Facebook if you want to scrub any photos or posts. Another useful tool: You can use Google's reverse image search to see if any of your photos have landed elsewhere on the internet.
For high schoolers applying to college or anyone looking to maintain an online reputation, Social Sweepster is an easy way to find and erase bongs and beer bottles from their searchable past. And as recruiters increasingly turn to social media for screening potential employees, having a squeaky-clean profile's become more important than ever. But for someone like me, whose worst offenses include tweeting about champagne brunch and a band called The Knife, it's just plain hilarious. I'm 99.9 percent sure none of this activity would count as a dealbreaker in a potential employer's eyes, but it's always better to be on the safe side.
When I scanned my Facebook and Twitter accounts, Social Sweepster turned up 180 high-confidence results, mostly Facebook posts and tweets containing allegedly controversial words like punch, smoke, stolen and alcohol. (Most of those were actually in work-related tweets.) The German article "die" showed up among my results; as it turns out English is the only language that's fully supported for now. Several Facebook photos with alcohol in the shot were all the way down in the "low confidence" results, too.
This is a product in beta, after all, and testers can help Social Sweepster improve its algorithm by indicating inappropriate items that escaped detection. As the company's algorithm improves over time, results like the inoffensive Engadget photo will hopefully be eliminated. If you're interested in taking the service for a test drive, you can apply to become a beta user. Social Sweepster's sending invites to the first 10,000 applicants, so hustle to it. It's unclear when the service will be available to the general public, but the fee will likely depend on how many photos you want scanned and how quickly you need the results. The service's also offering demos to enterprise clients, so it's possible that companies and universities could use this same technology for vetting purposes.
Finally, if you do nab an early invite, I suggest taking advantage of the slideshow tool for revisiting all those ill-advised college shenanigans. Just add a YouTube link for Green Day's "Time of Your Life" and you're set.