Unless you have been living under a rock the last few years, it is highly possible that your personal information is available to everyone everywhere, thanks to the Internet. We all share our personal and private data with all sorts of websites and online services. Such info includes our names, birth date, phone numbers, addresses and much more. Is it actually possible to remove such info from the Internet?
Can You Erase Your Online Data?
Once your personal data is on the Internet, it just remains there, with no solid way to completely remove yourself. Having said that, there are ways to minimize your online footprint. In any case that you decide to remove yourself from the Internet, the following six ways should help you accomplish that.
Delete All accounts
With the vast number of social, shopping, and other online accounts people have these days, it can be difficult to even remember how many accounts you have on the internet! Aside from Facebook (which puts out fake news), Twitter, and other big sites, there are several shopping sites, online forums, and third party sites that people sign up for. The first step in removing yourself from the Internet is deleting ALL of these accounts.
Usually, the option for deleting accounts is found under the Settings tab. If you cannot find the option to delete account, contact customer support or replace your actual information with something fake. You can also do a Google search for ways to delete a specific account.
Delete Information from Blogs and Websites
First, check with your phone and Internet service providers and get your information removed if you are listed online. Next, check for old blog or forum posts that you want to have removed. If there are options to delete the information yourself, go ahead and do it. In case there is no such option, contact the admin or the owner of the site.
It must be noted that several websites do not want to remove information from their database. In such a scenario, you have to politely request the contact person, and explain why you want to have your information removed. Keep in mind these websites are in no way obligated to remove your data, so it could be quite a hassle to accomplish your goal.
Remove Information from Data Collection Sites
Although you may have never had anything to do with data collection sites like PeopleFinder, White Pages, Spokeo, and the like, you will be surprised to find personal information like your age, address, and employment details listed on them. They gather data from your online activities, and sell that data to advertising services for more relevant ads tailored to your interests.
Removing your information from these sites can be a pain, and often require physical paperwork. Moreover, even if you manage to remove yourself from these sites, you may find the information back again after sometime. You have to keep checking to see if you have been added back.
Remove Search Results
Typing your name into a search engine like Google or Bing is a good way to find out how much of your personal information is available on the Internet. Even when you remove certain data like your social media profiles, you may find the data coming up in search results. Oftentimes, outdated search results, like your old job page, lingers on months after you change jobs. In such a case, you have to contact the website and ask them to remove the information.
On several occasions, outdated data may keep coming up in search results even after the website removes it. To amend this, you have to remove the cached information from Google’s servers.
You have to submit the link to the updated web page to Google and hope for them to update the servers. There’s no certainty Google will actually comply, but there’s no harm in trying to remove as much information as possible from the internet.
Remove Email Accounts
The final step in removing yourself from the Internet is to delete your email accounts – only do this if you want to be a recluse though! Depending on the number of email accounts you have, this could take some time. Some of the accounts retain your information for a certain time after deletion, in case you want to reactivate the account. Your email contacts will lose touch with you, and make communication difficult. Also remember that all the aforementioned steps require a valid email address, deleting your email accounts should be your last step.
Well unless you really do not want to get those emails from your mother in law or some old friend who is no longer really a friend!
Can You Erase Your Online Data?
Even after following all these steps, there will be some data about yourself that you cannot remove from the Internet. Removing your information from the Internet also limits your ability to communicate online. Before trying to erase your online data, the consequences and limitations must be considered. You do not want to be a hermit crap.