If you’re reading this, it’s highly likely that your personal information is available to the public. And while you can never remove yourself completely from the Internet, there are ways to minimize your online footprint. Here are five ways to do so.
Be warned however; removing your information from the Internet as I’ve laid it out below, may adversely affect your ability to communicate with potential employers.
1. Delete or deactivate your shopping, social network, and Web services accounts.
Social networks include sites like Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and LinkedIn. Shopping accounts include information stored on Amazon, Gap.com, Macys.com and others. And Web services might include cloud storage accounts such as Dropbox and OneDrive.
To get rid of these accounts, go to your account settings and just look for an option to either deactivate, remove, or close your account. Depending on the account, you may find it under Security or Privacy, or something similar.
If you’re having trouble with a particular account, try Googling “How to delete”, followed by the name of the account you wish to delete. You should be able to find some instruction on how to delete that particular account.
If for some reason can’t delete an account, change the info in the account to something other than your actual info. Something fake or completely random.
2. Remove yourself from data collection sites.
There are sites out there that collect your information, mostly in order to sell you stuff. They have names like Spokeo, Crunchbase, PeopleFinder, as well as plenty of others.
Now you could search for yourself on these sites and then deal with each site individually to get your name removed. Problem is, the procedure for opting out from each site is different and sometimes involves sending faxes and filling out actual physical paperwork.
An easier way to do it, is to use a service like DeleteMe at Abine.com. For about $130 for a one-year membership, the service will jump through all those monotonous hoops for you. It’ll even check back every few months to make sure your name hasn’t been re-added to these sites.
3. Remove your info directly from websites.
First, check with your phone company or cell provider to make sure you aren’t listed online and have them remove your name if you are.
If you want to remove an old forum post or an old embarrassing blog you wrote back in the day, you’ll have to contact the webmaster of those sites individually. You can either look at the About us or Contacts section of the site to find the right person to contact or go to www.whois.com and search for the domain name you wish to contact. There you should find information on who exactly to contact.
Unfortunately, private website operators are under no obligation to remove your posts. So, when contacting these sites be polite and clearly state why you want the post removed. Hopefully they’ll actually follow through and remove them.
If they don’t, tip number four is a less effective, but still viable, option.
4. Delete search engine results that return information about you.
This includes sites like Bing, Yahoo, and Google. In fact Google has a URL removal tool that can help you delete specific URLs.
For example, if someone has posted sensitive information such as a social security number or a bank account number and the webmaster of the site won’t remove it, you can at least contact the search engine companies to have it removed from search results.
5. And finally, the last step you’ll want to take is to remove your email accounts.
Depending on the type of email account you have, the amount of steps this will take will vary.
You’ll have to sign into your account and then find the option to delete or close the account. Some accounts will stay open for a certain amount of time, so if you want to reactivate them you can.
An email address is necessary to complete the previous steps, so make sure this one is your last.
One last thing…
Remember to be patient when going through this process. Don’t expect it to be completed in one day. And you may also have to accept that there some things you won’t be able permanently delete from the Internet.