Everything you do online leaves a footprint. From those awkward photos, to your address, and family members’ names – there’s a whole lot of information out there that anyone can get their hands on. But there’s a way to change that.
Removing your personal data from the internet can be tricky. After all, a lot of our personal information is online. However, these days getting your private data off the internet is a thing that many contemplate doing and rightfully so.
So, if you’re looking for a way to regain privacy and lower the risk of someone finding and using your data for dubious purposes – you’re in the right place. Today, we’re focusing on how data collection happens and what you should do to delete your personal information from the internet.
Why is your information online?
However, not all data is collected legally. Just as not all data is used according to the law. After all, we live in the age of cybercrime. Having your data stolen or exposed to dubious third parties can be devastating. Bad actors with enough data on their hands can cause serious financial and reputation problems.
Here are some of the ways that bad actors can get their hands on your data.
Data breaches are one of the primary ways that cybercrooks get their hands on large quantities of data all at once. In most instances, attackers focus on gaining unauthorized access to databases that include user information such as full names, email addresses, passwords, financial records, and other personally identifiable data. Check whether any of your personal information has been affected by a breach with our Data Breach Scanner now.
What you need to know about data brokers is that these are the companies that collect your data and sell it or share it with third parties. Such companies have been referred to as the middlemen of surveillance capitalism. The major issue with data brokers and their business model is that you have no control over who can buy your data.
Our social media accounts are filled with valuable information. Today, access to your social media profile might be everything that a hacker needs. Just think about it. We share photos, post about our hobbies, share holiday plans, and chat with friends and family. Unfortunately, cybercrooks are crafty, and gaining unauthorized access to a person’s social media profile might be as easy as launching a simple phishing campaign.
Imagine having your entire browsing history exposed. Yes, that could be very stressful and downright embarrassing. Your browsing history can paint a vivid picture about you, and anyone in possession of such information – bad actors especially – could abuse it as they see fit. Often cybercrooks use malicious software such as suspicious browser extensions to gain unauthorized access to browsing history.
Find out what Google knows about you
Before starting to remove your information from the internet, you first need to have an understanding of what is out there. It all starts with Google. Simply enter your name into the search engine and see what results it returns.
Decide how much privacy you seek
Once you’re done with the Google search, you can make a better decision regarding the level of privacy that you want to achieve by removing your information from the internet. It goes without saying that deciding how private you want to be online is a personal decision. Some people might be looking for more privacy than others. We’ve compiled a list of three probable scenarios that you may want to consider.
Scenario 1: You don't want to delete everything, but you want some privacy.
So you want to remain relatively active online but want to take control of your data privacy as much as possible. Here are a few simple steps you can take to improve your privacy on the internet.
Opt out of data brokers and people-search sites
To limit the scope of information that data brokers and people-search sites collect, you can legally require such companies to remove all of your sensitive information from their databases and stop collecting it altogether. This is no simple feat. Data brokers are infamous for coming up with dark patterns to discourage users from opting out. However, we’ve compiled a list of major data brokers’ sites that will lead you directly to the opt-out form and will hopefully save you time.
Tighten privacy on your social media accounts
Our social media accounts hold a vast amount of extremely sensitive information. So consider making privacy settings on social media platforms work for you. Explore all the options that a platform offers privacy-wise and set it up in a way that you feel comfortable. It is always a good idea to make your social media accounts private so only the people you know can view the content you share.
Also, consider fragmenting your accounts. You can always separate your social media profiles for personal and professional use. This way, you can easily differentiate what you share on different accounts and enable different privacy settings on them.
Make the most of the privacy settings on browsers and search engines
If you wish to limit what kind of information Google collects, visit its activity controls page to manage your YouTube search history, ad personalization, in-app and web activity, and location history.
Don’t forget to also use your browser’s internal settings to improve your privacy. Most browsers today have a dedicated section for privacy and security. Adjust those settings according to your particular needs.
You might also want to consider using web browsers such as Brave or DuckDuckGo – these browsers are built with a privacy-first approach to help users stay in control of their private data.
Use ad blockers
Ad blockers limit the number of ads presented to you online. The main benefit that ad blockers bring to the table might go unnoticed. Sure, they make the online experience a lot less annoying, but they also limit the scope of information that advertisers would collect by showing you those ads. Keep in mind that it is a good idea to have ad blockers active on your desktop devices as well as on mobile ones.
Scenario 2: You want to limit your online presence as much as possible
You take your privacy online seriously and want to minimize your footprint to the max, yet you want to keep communication lines open. Well, here are steps that you can take.
Remove your personal information from Google
Getting off Google's radar is the first step for anyone looking to be serious about their privacy online. The best and quickest way to achieve this is by requesting Google to remove content related to you. Follow the instructions on this page to do just that.
Close personal websites and blogs
Have a personal website or a blog? Well, chances are there’s a whole lot of information about you on it. To maximize your privacy online, it is best to take your websites or blogs down. This will get them off Google's index and limit the scope of your information out there on the internet.
Delete old email accounts
Old emails might seem irrelevant until they aren’t. The fact of the matter is that email accounts can be a gateway into your other online accounts. Old and unused email accounts are a hacker’s delight. So it is best to take charge and delete them altogether. This way, you will improve your overall online security as well as privacy.
Enable the do-not-track feature on your browser
The do-not-track feature is included in the majority of today’s browsers. It is a setting that signals the websites that you visit that you do not want to have their tracking cookies on your browser. Essentially, the do-not-track feature blocks sites from tracking your activity.
Regularly clear your browser history and remove cookies
Every action on your browser is recorded. Your browser holds loads of information about your browsing habits, the time you spent on certain sites, and much more. So consider regularly cleaning your browser. Clear your browsing history at regular intervals and remove tracking cookies.
Remove unused apps from your devices
Most of the apps on your device collect data to a certain extent. Chances are you have apps that you never use, but they still can get information such as your device ID, screen size, and even location. For a privacy-first approach, it is best to remove any apps that you no longer use. This again will limit your digital footprint and enhance your online privacy even further.
Use your phone’s privacy and security settings
Be aware of the fact that the apps that remain on your phone will more than likely continue collecting data. To counter this and limit their collection activities to the minimum, take advantage of your phone’s internal settings.
Most smartphones today come equipped with a variety of settings designed to help you maintain your privacy only. Take the time and manually check what apps track what and adjust privacy settings on your mobile device accordingly.
Scenario 3: You want to disappear from the internet completely
So you’ve decided that life online is not for you and you want to disconnect altogether. Well, that might be tricky.
First, however, we’d advise you to permanently delete all your social media accounts. Also, don’t forget to terminate accounts on shopping websites or other services. You should also request each service to delete the data it has on you. Doing so will all but erase your name from the internet.
If you want to go even further, consider ditching your smartphone altogether. The same can be said about other devices such as smart watches, tablets, laptops, and even desktop devices. If you do that, you’ll be as close as possible to being completely offline. Now all you need to do is get a little shack in the mountains and you’ll be living the off-the-grid dream.
All jokes aside, going completely dark might not be feasible these days. Getting every single bit of your private data off the internet is pretty much impossible, especially if you were born into the digital age. The fact of the matter is that if you want to stay connected to at least a few of your friends or family members, you’ll leave a footprint on the internet one way or another.
So you want to make a comeback
You’ve been taking privacy seriously and have been out of this whole online game for quite some time but wish to come back. Well, that can happen in no time at all. All you need to do is connect to the internet.
Online sites, apps, and platforms make it super easy to recover lost accounts. Creating a new one is easier than getting rid of an old one. If you’re someone who has used the internet in the last five years, getting back online won’t be an issue.
However, it is critical to internalize the idea that cybercrime is part of the whole internet game. More hackers than ever are doing their best to get their hands on your data for profit. Staying secure is crucial if you’re serious about your privacy online. And the bedrock of today’s cybersecurity is passwords – our first line of defense against unauthorized access.
Let’s face it – password management is not easy. We’re required to create a strong and unique password for each online account. And we have tons of online accounts these days – memorizing unique and complex passwords to protect each one is not realistic. That’s why so many people end up reusing the same simple passwords across multiple accounts, which is essentially the same as having the same lock for every door in your house.
Fortunately, these days we have password managers. NordPass is one of such tools that can help you boost your online security. With NordPass, you can store and access your passwords, credit cards, and secure notes whenever you need. Thanks to the built-in Password Generator, coming up with a new password for new online accounts is a matter of a few clicks.
A password manager also eliminates the need to manually type passwords by offering autofill functionality. In the NordPass Premium case, users also get access to advanced security features such as Password Health — which is used to identify weak, old or reused passwords – and Data Breach Scanner — which allows users to find out if their private data has been compromised in a data breach.
With a reliable password manager at your fingertips, the return to life online will be easier and much more secure. But don’t take our word for it – just try it out yourself.