Once upon a time, it was possible to monitor what information about you was available online. But with the widespread use of the internet and the rise of various social media platforms, this information is not only quickly accessible, but more difficult to remove.
If you ever wonder if you can erase yourself from the web, you’re not alone. According to a 2022 research survey by NordVPN, 55% of Americans wish they could delete themselves from the Internet and 42% fear that someone will hack them.
Erasing your private information from the Internet is a difficult task, and there is rarely a guarantee that anything deleted will remain permanently offline. But minimizing your digital footprint is possible.
According Daniel MarkusonA digital privacy expert at NordVPN, there are a number of steps you can take to start erasing your personal information.
1. Google yourself
The first step is to understand what information about you is available. When you share something online you give up control over that piece of data, so Google yourself to see what photos and personal information exist on the web.
According to Markuson, you can start by identifying all the sites you’ve used that would host your data, including forums and websites you personally own. Do a Google search for your information on sites that may have cloned or logged your data to familiarize yourself with what is out there.
2. Delete, Disable and Erase
Once you have found this information, delete all the data you can, then either delete, anonymize or deactivate your accounts.
You will need to delete your social media profiles, especially with notorious bad actors like facebook – and if you really want to leave no trace, delete your accounts with online shopping, dating and other services, like Skype or Dropbox.
Remember that you should always delete data from apps and sites that you no longer use. Also nNote that search engines may take some time to clear their caches, which capture and temporarily store website data.
3. Disable data brokers (and do it regularly)
“You must also painfully – one by one – withdraw from data brokers,” Markuson said, referring to organizations that search the internet for private information that can be sold to third parties.
When you first started on Google, you may have seen your information appear in the results of popular data brokerage sites such as Spokeo, MyLife, Whitepages, BeenVerified, Intelius, and others that create online profiles of people. .
There are tools like DeleteMe that help remove your information from data brokers. DeleteMe offers a free unsubscribe guide to help you request deletion of information many of these sites – but annoyingly, you’ll have to manage each of them individually if you do it yourself.
Data is usually refreshed on most data broker websites every three months, so you will also need to check it regularly to stay on track.
Alternatively, you can set up a DeleteMe subscription for approximately $129 per year. Business can help Opt out of over 30 top data broker sites in the US and continues to do so for as long as your subscription lasts. When you sign up for DeleteMe, you can choose how many people — yourself plus family members or work colleagues, for example — and how many years you want to include in your membership.
If you have discovered information on platforms in the United Kingdom or the European Union, consider signing up to Unknown, which has the ability to remove your data from over 130 data brokers for around $70 per year. Before selecting a service, do your research on how many data broker sites it reaches and compare prices.
Gal Ringelthe CEO of Mine, an “all-in-one privacy suite” focused on data privacy rights, also recommends seeking professional help if these steps are difficult to manage on your own. Mine says it works as a personalized “intelligent data assistant” to help you discover and manage your data online.
“Saymine.com helps you minimize your digital risks by allowing you to discover all the companies that hold your personal data and the associated risks, and allows you to send formal data deletion requests to companies,” Ringel said of his product. , which is currently free but has a premium version planned for the future.
“If you find your personal information on other websites, you can always submit a request asking them to remove it in the hope that they will take action,” he added.
If they don’t, “Google also has tools and processes to help you clear unwanted results from the web,” Markuson said.
These methods are not permanent solutions but aim to minimize your online presence. You can set yourself a quarterly reminder to go through these steps and checks again.
4. Pursue legal remedies if necessary
There are also legal actions to pursue when content is online without your consent. With measures like the General Data Protection Regulation in Europe and the California Consumer Privacy Act in the United States, there are legal rights to protect data and the consequences in the event of a breach.
“Examples of legal actions are the many GDPR and CCPA fines“, Ringel said. If an organization fails to protect an individual’s personal data, it faces severe penalties.
Recently, for example, cosmetics giant Sephora was fined $1.2 million because it failed to disclose that it was selling consumers’ personal information and did not honor takedown requests from those sales. If you need to take legal action to remove information from the Internet, contact an attorney for assistance.
You must be allowed to use the Internet on your own terms while remaining diligent and careful about how your information is presented online.
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