How to Remove Yourself from the Internet
Linda Collins - September 16, 2019
Every day the internet evolves into a deeper hole of data and information. People then take that information and use it for various purposes. Hackers and scam artists use personal information to access bank accounts and safety deposits, ad companies sell info to the highest bidding marketing agencies running pertinent ads to their target audiences, and almost anyone can find something about you if they just type your name into their Google search bar.
All of this information is scary and continues to deepen as people add more and more info to their digital footprint. In 70 years, many of us will look back at our younger years and everything will be recorded. It could make for a strange and weird society. But what if you wanted to erase your digital footprint? Is this even possible you might ask? Possible yes. Difficult, absolutely. Every time you make an account, download an app or type in the search bar, it is recorded. This digital footprint is pretty significant for all of us. So how do we get rid of it? Well, I have compiled a few different tasks you can complete to minimize your digital footprint.
It’s hard to begin to erase yourself from the internet, but the first thing you have to do is figure out where to start. Typing your name into a google search and looking things up is a good first step. This might seem trivial, but it’s actually pretty helpful. You might even be surprised by the number of accounts or pages that come up with your name. You can also set up a Google alert to tell you whenever your name or email address is used across the web using Google alerts.
Based on what you find, it might be helpful to take some notes. There might be a bunch of stuff that you are going to have to get rid of, so instead of having to constantly search, you can just search once, and then consult your notes with the next few steps.
While Google is probably the best option for finding info about yourself, you can also use a people search engine. Two popular people search engines that I would recommend are Pipl and PeekYou. Pipl is a paid service, but PeekYou is completely free and can show you a ton of different info. These searches can help you see accounts and other pages that might still be active.
You can also utilize CheckPeople to search for your info. It will provide you with a comprehensive background check style profile for you to look over and consider.
Delete Unused or Old Social Media Accounts
There are about 3.4 billion active social media accounts. That means that almost half of the world has social media. But, does that mean that you should? Well, especially if you are thinking about erasing your digital footprint, getting rid of social media is an extremely important step.
If you have old Facebook or Instagram accounts that you don’t even use, those should be purged first. Then, it might be helpful to consider trimming your social media presence even if you aren’t going to totally delete it. First off, make all of your social media accounts “private” in the security settings. Next, take the time to delete any posts that are old, inappropriate or that leak personal information. Make sure everything appears professional and clean.
Finally, if you really want to truly “be off the grid” or “purge your digital footprint” it might be a good idea to consider getting rid of social media altogether. Obviously, this is the most extreme step, but it might be necessary if you want to totally erase your digital presence.
Request Google Listing Removals
This is a request that you have to make to Google directly. Here’s the problem, Google isn’t required to de-list something for you. So it may take time. It depends on the type of personal information that you are trying to protect. But it’s always worth it to ask. If a web page gets delisted it won’t be able to get many views.
This is a good route to go if something has been posted that is personal like pictures, addresses, or financial information. This will take a good bit of time and effort on your part, but again for bank info or personal medical data, it is totally worth pursuing.
Use a VPN
A VPN or a virtual private network will mask your computer while you browse the web. We leave info every single time we search the web or click on a web page. Google and other search engines save your data and then sell it to the highest bidder. A VPN masks the computer’s data with 256-bit encryption software.
Using a VPN offers privacy and anonymity. If you don’t want to leave any digital footprint, it helps to use a VPN after you have erased everything else on the internet.
Utilize Outside Resources
There are a few paid options that I want to highlight. First of all, Deseat.me is an online option that will automatically request that your accounts are deleted and that you are unsubscribed from emails. However, if you have a ton of junk mail the best option is to just create a second email for junk and spam and keep your main email address clean and business-ready.
Deseat.me is actually a free service, but another option called DeleteMe is a paid service that works for a year. It will search the internet high and low for your information and request deletion of anything it finds.
You can also use a tool like “BrandYourself” to fix what your digital footprint looks like. If you want to change your brand, or how you rank in specific Google searches.
Be Cautious in All Internet Activity
As we have already talked about, multiple times, everything you do is recorded, so when an app or site asks for information like addresses, phone numbers, or email boxes, make sure you are okay with what you are agreeing to. Often we just hit the “confirm” button without even thinking about the consequences of the topic. So next time you are thinking about creating a new account and you are asked for “permissions” to create it, take a second to think about what that actually entails.
Make Sure to Unsubscribe From Everything
Everyone hates a cluttered inbox. Especially when your primary email address is filling up with junk and spam. As I mentioned before, you could just create a second email address and use that for all of the promos and junk mail. Now you could sit and manually unsubscribe at the bottom of all of those emails, which will take you hours and hours of time. Or you could use a system like Unroll.me to check all of the subscriptions that you have obtained over time. It will then allow you to go through and delete the ones you don’t want.
What if I can’t Delete an Account?
There are a couple of options to consider if you want to delete an account. Sometimes, accounts don’t want you to be able to fully delete your information. This makes their numbers look inflated and also serves them other purposes. But you can do two things to get rid of most of the info located on the site.
First off, delete all of the optional information that you have already entered. When there are places you cannot delete, change the info to something that is fake. It can be a name, email address, or phone number. Just get rid of them and enter something that isn’t real. At the end of all this, you can set it up so that there is no way anything links back to you at the end.
Sometimes, emailing or calling the customer support service can help you delete your accounts but there is no guarantee this will work, and if they really want to keep as many accounts as possible there is probably no way you can get them to delete it. In that case, the fake info is the best possible option.
It is almost crazy to think about how much we do and say on the internet. It consumes our lives, and we spend weeks, months, and years on the web. We don’t think about all of the info we are putting into our digital footprint. Pretty soon, people can get a pretty clear picture of who we are as a person just by looking at our social media posts, or where we have browsed (if they have access to this sort of thing).
Disappearing from the internet is a pretty tough task. It will take a considerable amount of time, effort, and even financial power to accomplish this goal. But we can all use a little cutback on the internet. Maybe it’s time that you get rid of the old accounts and clean out your mailbox. Or maybe you actually want to cleanse your whole digital presence. Well, it definitely can be done, just get ready to grind out the necessary steps.