The internet never forgets, so they say. Hence, everything you’ve once typed unto the internet can be retrieved at anything. Not by you alone but by anyone who might take the interest and dig for it. This is so true and by running a simple Google search of your full name. A whole lot of information will pop out including personal ones like your home address and phone numbers. Information about you can be found on a lot of websites which can be accessed by just anyone. Some of these websites are social networks, directory listing websites, background check websites and the list continues. Nevertheless, the information about you contained in these websites is available publicly for free or for a fee.
What Information about me can be gotten online?
A whole lot about you. Any form you’ve once filled on any website has a record of you and can be available to a third party. Apart from your tweets, pictures, and video uploads, this information could include:
- Your full names
- Date of birth
- Your address (current or anywhere you have once lived)
- Email and contact phone numbers
- Marital status
- Name of your relatives
- Your education
- Name of friends, business partners or colleagues
- Your employer
- Details of any criminal convictions and arrest
- Your sexual orientation
- Assets etc.
Other sites may even have access to much more sensitive data such as social security number and credit cards details. You also need to be aware if someone is spying on you because with so much known information on you. An intruder can easily pry on your computer for criminal activities.
How Do These Websites Get my Data?
Just put it, you made it available for them to source. As earlier stated, any form you fill online about you is a potential exposure of your identity. Besides, these websites may be annoying for intruding into your privacy but it isn’t totally illegal for now. All they did was to collate information which is already in the public domain. They get their data sourced from government databases (census records, electoral roll, land use record, criminal conviction databases, marriage certificate records, etc.). Other sources include social media platforms, the likes of Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, LinkedIn, etc.
Should you really be concerned?
Being concerned depends on you and how much is okay for anyone out there to know about you from the internet. Anyone from your relatives, to friends, foes, business partners, employers, government, etc. Yes, just anyone that could take the time to look. Once you know what the internet stores about you, then you can decide for yourself if it’s okay with you.
Nonetheless, a simple Google search can bring out most of the listed above. An average internet user can have access to this information without the need for any advanced or sophisticated tools. If you’re concern about privacy, you should be bothered on how to take down this information. Moreover, having your information exposed can easily mark you for vulnerabilities like identify theft, spear phishing, sim swaps, etc. The more you have exposed, the more you could be a victim of a cyber attack.
With all being said, here are the 6 easy ways to delete your personal data on the internet. However, be warned; removing your information from the internet may affect you in some other ways. E.g. an employer might want to run a check on you but coming up with nothing might hinder your consideration.
1. Clean out your social media accounts
First, start with the main hub of personal data accumulator, your social media accounts. Read through the Terms and Conditions of the various social media account you operate. Simply because different social media has its own set of rules. This will give you information on how you can go about deleting your account and data from the service. Besides, you would know what data are collected about you and what you have access to delete.
2. Clean out common data collection websites
Run a Google check on your full name, zip code, state using a search query to filter irrelevant results. Copy out the websites with information about you. Open wiki.onerep.com to get information on how you can remove your details from the individual websites.
3. Reach out and request for your information being erased
Inasmuch as some websites will allow you to log in and delete your personal data, some other sites may not give you such privilege. In such a situation, you may need to directly contact the website owner and make a formal request. Search on the website on how to contact the site owner on their Contact page or simply Google it. Reach out in a civil and professional way and make a formal request.
4. Clear yourself from outdated search results
You still might appear in some search result even after deleting your information from a website. This is because the search engine could be pulling up its own ‘cache‘ of the page, even after the site was edited. Clearing yourself completely will require a tool. You can either use the Google tool “Remove outdated content” or the Microsoft “Content Removal Tool” to delete your personal data from these sites.
5. Delete your email accounts
The last step you would want to take is to delete your emails accounts. This should be your last cleanup because your email address is necessary to complete some of the mentioned steps above.
6. A quick fix to delete your personal data
If you find the various processes too cumbersome and you just wish for a button to wipe out everything. Then you should make use of the paid service DeleteMe. The tool will help and wipe out the records of you on the internet with some few clicks. Moreover, DeleteMe also gives you a set of DIY guides on how you can specify which website you would like your data erased.
A word of caution
Erasing the internet records on you won’t just stop there. Since you’re not giving up on the internet totally but still going to use it again. This time you’ll need to be discreet and never give out any personal information about you. First, you’ll have to create new email accounts for friends, family, and work and never use them for any unnecessary web service signup. Furthermore, ensure that the websites and browsers you visit henceforth do not track you. You can add some extension like Ghostery or Https Everywhere to your browser to keep you safe. Or you can consider using a VPN as part of your internet connection.
In all, always remember to take precaution regarding your identify and keep your information safe. Cautiously read the privacy policies of websites before signing on. And open only necessary accounts and never share personal information on social media, forums, online stores, and any other insecure platform.
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