How to Remove Your Personal Data from the Internet

Eraser

While the internet has offered millions of people across the globe a tremendous amount of freedom in the way they connect, operate their businesses, and produce and distribute media, internet users across the political spectrum believe that these advantages have come with several infringements of their civil liberties. 

For instance, our most private conversations and interactions are recorded and stored indefinitely on government servers. Hackers have more opportunities than ever to steal our most personal information. And new internet phenomenon like “doxing” has caused many social media users to feel unsafe on a platform that was supposed to offer them a protected place to engage with their friends. 

This has led to many people wishing they could either minimize their online presence or erase it altogether. Invasive questions haunt them late at night: What if I’m applying for a new job and my prospective employer sees my dumb college party posts? How well did those political blogs that I wrote in my mid-twenties age? What about the heated exchange I had with someone on Twitter yesterday? 

Unfortunately, most people don’t know how to diminish their internet-self to avoid possible blowback or embarrassment later in life. But luckily, this blog has some clear and easily implementable advice on how to remove yourself from the internet. So keep reading to discover how you can eliminate your personal data from the internet and keep your future secure. 


Steps to Deleting Your Online Presence 

The first thing you need to know is that your personal information can appear in many places on the internet. Social media platforms, search engine pages, and data collection sites being three of the most common. The steps to remove your data from these sources will vary depending on the platform. For instance, most social media sites like Facebook provide their users with instructions for deleting their content, while eliminating your name from search engines requires a bit more work on your part. 

This means that you must have a comprehensive understanding of how to remove yourself from the internet to fully protect your privacy. Though this is far from an exhaustive list, in this blog, we will endeavor to explain how to delete your information from the three most common sources mentioned above with clear and concise steps. 


How to Remove Your Data from Social Media 

Protecting your personal information on social media is crucial to maintaining your privacy online and in the real world. Your pictures, private messages, group discussions, and more are all up for grabs, so defending this aspect of your virtual-self is a must for your cybersecurity safety. 

As mentioned above, social media sites generally have options for erasing personal information. Most platforms will allow you to erase either a specific post or your entire account, and each site has specific rules for how to go about doing this. So it’s best to either perform a Google search to see if instructions for this process are already out there or check under the platform’s profile, my account, or systems tab to see if the option is located there. 

Since Facebook is the most popular social media site in the world, here are instructions for how to erase your Facebook profile with ease, so you get some understanding of how this process works. 

  1. Click in the top right of Facebook.

  2. Select Settings & Privacy > Settings.

  3. Click Your Facebook Information in the left column.

  4. Click Deactivation and Deletion.

  5. Choose Permanently Delete Account, then click Continue to Account Deletion.

  6. Click Delete Account, enter your password and then click Continue.

Also, if someone is posting defamatory content about you, social media networks generally have a process for handling such issues. If you’re having this problem on Facebook, you can use Defamation Reporting Form to log your complaints with the company. 


How to Remove Your Name from Search Engines 

What is the first thing people see when they Google your name? If it’s just your LinkedIn profile, then maybe you have nothing to worry about. But if someone has been posting false information about you or you’ve made some unpopular posts on social media, this seemingly benign exercise can have real-life consequences. 

Like the information in the last section, we’ll focus on the world’s most popular search engine, Google, to give you examples of the kind of personal information that the company will remove from their search engine. According to Google, they will remove unwanted and explicit personal images, involuntary fake pornography, content on sites with exploitative removal practices, financial, medical, and national ID information, and “doxing” content. 

To understand more completely how Google defines these terms follow this link

Search engines like Google use websites to gather the information that is presented on their ranking pages. This means that the best way for you to ensure that your information is removed from the search results page is to contact the owners of the website and ask them to remove the data. 

If you’re having trouble figuring out how to contact the web owner, Google has the following suggestions:  


How to Remove Your Personal Information from Data Collection Sites 

Many “people-search” sites, such as White Pages, MyLife, and Spokeo, have poor reputations for aggregating information about individuals without their knowledge. Information like your address, phone number, and credit score might be stored in one of these data broker sites and you might not even know about it. 

Luckily, many of these companies have options for opting out of their databases that usually involve filling out a form or sending them an email. If you want to scrub your personal information from these data collections sites, Data Brokers is a comprehensive list of the data broker companies out there and their policies for opting out of their databases.


How to Keep Your Personal Information Secure 

When managing your data online, you may encounter information that you’d like to save, but keeping it in cloud storage can be risky. If you upload your personal data to cloud storage, you open yourself up to many risks, such as data leakage, security breaches, government intrusions, and lack of IT support.

Keeping your personal data on an external hard drive is a much safer way to store your information. This way, you always know where your data is located, it can’t be attacked by hackers unless it’s connected to your computer, and they’re often much more reliable to use than cloud storage. 

If you’re looking for some more advice about how to secure your personal data on your devices, check out some tips below. 


Keep Sensitive Information Stored Securely 

Keeping your sensitive information stored securely is crucial to making sure that your personal photos, memories, and thoughts don’t get into the hands of hackers or the general public. While there is no one perfect way to store your personal data, there are several best practices that, if implemented, will decrease your likelihood of having to remove yourself from the internet later. 

Here are some of the most common: 

Also, you should remember that if you’re using your mobile device to do remote work for your job, you’re potentially opening up your employer to security risks. Make sure that you’re following the best advice for keeping your cellphone safe while at work or home. 


Dispose of Old Devices Responsibly 

Your old devices, regardless of whether they’re in working shape or not, can still contain a ton of your personal information. But before you get rid of your damaged device, you should attempt to recover your data from it to store on another device or hard drive. To figure out how to do this, check out our tips for data recovery in this blog

Now if you’re ready to dispose of your device, and you want to make sure that you do it the responsible way, there are several best practices that you should follow, such as making sure that you have copied all of the information you need from the device, wiping your data from it by overwriting your information, and then recycling it with a trusted electronics recycling company.