How to (kind of) erase yourself from the internet

One quick Google search can reveal a lot about a person — an Instagram photo with their family members tagged, tweets identifying their political affiliation or a leaked phone number abused by scam callers.

Deleting yourself from the internet can be difficult in practice. Even if you take down most of your presence on the World Wide Web, there will still be traces of you — a link here, a photo there.

Complete erasure isn’t possible, but here are some ways that you can get as close as possible. But first, let’s understand what we’re protecting.

According to PrivacyBee, sensitive data about you online can include six types of information:

  1. The basics: Full name, telephone number, education history and physical address.
  2. Bank accounts and their logins.
  3. Medical records.
  4. Insurance information.
  5. Social Security number.
  6. Identification details.

Here are ways to protect your information online.

Research first: Google yourself

The popular and widely used search engine is an information funnel, and most often, the No. 1 access point for information.

It’s worth noting that website data continuously collect information, such as YouTube and web search history. You can visit Google’s activity controls and turn on “Auto Delete” to manage your information.

Google also has a form where you can request that the search engine take down certain search results or information. If you present a case for the data to be removed, the search engine will update its results.

Opt out from data brokers

Companies, like PeopleFinder and Spokeo, are tasked with collecting people’s information. and selling it to interested parties, including advertisers.

Privacy Rights Clearinghouse created a database of 231 data brokers in the U.S., which contains information about whether the company allows you to opt out. According to PrivacyBee, this “may be the most impactful step” in this process.

Delete and scrub old accounts

Another important step is to delete your social media accounts, like Facebook, Facebook Messenger, Instagram, Twitter, Telegram, Linkedin, Snapchat, Reddit and Tumblr, and other shopping, dating, and ride-sharing apps like Amazon, Bumble and Uber, according to NordVPN.

Then comes the hard part — websites. Close down your own sites, then scrub any forums you’ve used. Google is your best friend when it comes to finding these sites and so is your email account.

Go through any and all accounts you’ve ever signed up for using any of your emails. You can then delete and scrub posts and profiles created. Even if you don’t delete your account, it’s important to clear out any old messages and posts. The last step in this process would be to delete your email accounts.

Hire someone to do the dirty work

It takes a lot of time and effort to sort out erasing yourself from the internet. Lucky for you, there are paid services that can put in the work for you.

Here are five data removal providers:

  • OneRep ($8.33 a month).
  • DeleteMe ($10.75 a month).
  • BrandYourself ($9.99 a month).
  • Safe Shepherd (starts at $8.33 a month).
  • ReputationDefender ($.9.95 a month).

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