You’ve probably heard of people’s private information getting leaked online. Maybe you’re even one of those people who had their personal information compromised. No matter what, you should take the necessary precautions to protect yourself from potential leaks.
Your digital footprint is the result of all your online activity. No matter how minimal, some data about you will inevitably be collected by various platforms and sites over time – including your name, email address, phone number or other personal info like age and gender. A lot can happen on any given day if you are not careful with what information you give out!
However, there are steps you can take to remove your personal information from the internet.
The dangers associated with online data exposure
Theft from your bank account using credit card or account information is a common type of online fraud that can be made worse by the fact people feel more comfortable sharing their private data with certain industries. Healthcare and financial services in particular may not always have the best security measures in place, which makes this even easier for criminals to take advantage of.
Phishing, man-in-the-middle attacks, and backdoor entries are ways in which malicious parties try to access user data stored on individual and big-tech servers. Simply put, the more information there is about you on the internet, the more it takes a toll on your overall cybersecurity.
How does your personal information get stored on the internet?
Data brokers collect all of the information they can find, which includes your public records. This could be anything from social media profiles to name and contact numbers as well as an individual’s criminal history or marriage certificate–it depends on what is available.
Social media is an online representation of your real life, with most social accounts including names and addresses. This detailed insight into your private world makes it easier for platforms to figure out what you’re interested in, and what you are buying. With this information, businesses can display adverts to target you.
How to delete your personal information from the internet
Here are 5 ways you can protect your personal information from being viewed online.
1. Request To Remove Your Info From Data Broker Sites
Data brokers (aka information brokers, data providers, and data suppliers) are companies that collect data themselves or buy it from other companies (like a credit card company), crawl the internet for useful information about users – legally or otherwise – and aggregate that information with data from other sources (e.g. offline sources). Data brokers are becoming more popular as they offer services that can be tailored to specific needs.
There is a lot of diversity within the industry, with some focusing on location data or health care while others may specialize in financial advising and banking acumen for those who need it most.
Companies invest in building databases that can look up individuals. Some of these people search sites like Whois, PeopleFinders and Intelius are extensively used by companies for background checks on potential new hires while this might seem unethical to many but data brokerage is considered legal in many parts around the world.
2. Stop Google from tracking your every step
92% of the Search Engine market is held by Google. Aside from being a search engine, Google has other applications such as Gmail and Google Maps, making it a gateway to your personal information. While Google is a great tool, it is also a gateway to some of your personal information.
To combat this issue, you can remove your name from Google search results by submitting a removal request. This will disable anyone online from getting any results if they search your name. Moreover, Google collects all your browsing data continuously. You also have the option to turn on “Auto Delete” in your privacy settings to ensure that the data is deleted regularly and help limit the amount of time your sensitive data stays vulnerable.
You can also occasionally delete your cookies or use your browser in incognito mode to prevent websites from being tracked back to you. Go to your Google Chrome settings to clear your browser and cookie history.
3. Revise your social media accounts
As discussed above, while you cannot eliminate your digital footprint, you can minimize your presence on social media to the bare minimum. Start by taking some time to make a list of all your online accounts and subscriptions. While this may seem like an easy task, we tend to subscribe to so many websites, blogs, and services online that we might not even recollect them. Think about how many times you must have given your name, age, email, and even address for different services and websites.
After making a list, prioritize your social media accounts. If there are old accounts that you no longer visit or websites that have gone out of fashion, like Myspace or Tumblr, you may want to deactivate them or consider deleting them entirely.
Consider adjusting your privacy settings on LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter. For example, on Facebook, you can lock your profile, while on Instagram you can stay private.
4. Remove personal info from other websites
Consider removing any content you’ve published if it no longer serves a purpose. You might have shared personal details of your life when writing articles, blogs or creating online content by considering the consequences.
Additionally, you might be mentioned by other people in various social media posts, articles, or blogs. It is worth reaching out to these people to request them to take down posts with sensitive information. If your friends or third-party websites do not comply with taking down your information, you can visit Google support and send a legal request to Google to have it removed.
The information you share on social media or articles online may become the fuel for an endless amount of negative things. Do not give away your personal details unless it is absolutely necessary because businesses will find ways around privacy laws with this type of data, and hackers might be lurking too. Asking friends to remove any posts containing private info can help protect yourself from these risks.
5. Delete unused phone apps
Delete all unnecessary apps on your phone. Even when apps are not open or in use, they tend to continuously track personal information such as your real-time location and even your payment details if you have a paid subscription to the app.
Some apps even sell this data as it can be extremely advantageous to other companies. For example, fitness apps have crucial health-related data for thousands of individuals. This data is valuable for companies targeting a certain consumer segment to make sales. Try to share as little information with apps as possible if you’re looking to minimize your online footprint, and provide them access to your photos, contacts, and location only on a need-to-know basis.
As you can see, there are a number of ways to go about removing your personal information from the internet. It may take some time and effort on your part, but it is well worth it in order to protect your privacy.