How to Remove Personal Information Online
Learn how to remove personal information online with our step-by-step guide.
Whether it’s sensitive banking information or photos you wish weren’t posted online, you most likely have stuff online you don’t want others to see.
Erasing personal data from the internet could lower someone’s chances of finding and using it for their own gain. In the internet era, internet privacy is more important than ever.
If you’re ready to protect your identity, here are some tips and examples of how to remove personal information online.
How can my personal information show up online?
When someone gets your information, it could lead to serious trouble. Once they obtain your name and other personal details, they could use these together to steal your identity. This could potentially wreak your finances, allow scammers to send messages to your email, and even allow people to stalk you online or in person.
Several examples of personal information include:
Details such as full name, home address, telephone number, and education.
Bank account numbers and login information.
Account credentials, such as usernames and passwords for websites.
Health information or health insurance details.
Identification numbers, such as a passport number, Social Security number, or tax identification number.
These are several ways hackers and scammers can get access to your personal information.
Data breaches occur when unauthorized individuals break into databases attempting to steal and release information onto websites, usually the dark web.
The information targeted may include names, Social Security or driver’s license numbers, financial and medical records, email addresses, and passwords for accounts.
These types of companies collect and sell data they can legally acquire. This includes names, date of birth, telephone numbers, addresses, marriage records, criminal history, social media profiles, and more. They condense data from dozens of different public records online and then compile it for people to view their own leisure.
You can typically view basic details for free or pay for a more in-depth report. Data broker sites like PeopleSearchNow have information on almost everyone who uses the web.
Social media and blogs
Your social media accounts can contain all the pieces that a criminal needs to commit identity theft. They have open access to your full name, where you live and work, photos of you and your family, vacation plans, and other personal information you share.
Removing social profiles and blogs makes it harder for people to use that information.
Internet service providers and various companies can use a technology called “cookies” that tracks your browsing history, using this information to create targeted advertisements.
Hackers can also get access to your search history and use it to scam you, embarrass you, or get into your online accounts.
Remove personal information from the internet
It’s a process to remove personal information from the internet, be patient and don’t expect it to be completed in one day. Take a slow, systematic approach, tackling one technique every week or two.
Keep these warnings in mind: It may be impossible to delete all of your info from the web permanently.
Even after you remove any profiles and information, you might see info surface in search results, potentially putting off employers and future love interests. But in time, the effort and absence from the web can help protect you online.
Delete your social media profiles
Make a list of the social media accounts you have, such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Also, think back to the beginning of social media sites such as Live Journal and MySpace.
Visit each website, find the account settings, and look for the option to deactivate or remove the account. Depending on the amount of information you want to keep private, you can also delete your online banking and credit card accounts and even your personal email accounts.
If you’re having trouble, Google “how to delete X profile/account,” and you should find instructions for removing it. If you’re unable to close the account, replace the account information (such as your name and email address) with something random (such as a string of random numbers and letters). This is the best alternative if you can’t remove personal information from them.
Ask data-collection websites to delete your information
If you want to distance yourself from these databases, start by searching for yourself on websites such as Spokeo, People Search Now, MyLife, Nuwber, USPhonebook, and PeopleFinder. Then contact the data broker and ask about opting out.
The process can be different for each site, and it may take some time to complete the steps for each one fully. Removing your information from all of these data brokers might be a tedious process.
For a fee, services such as DeleteMe* can save you time by removing you from data brokers and other search results themselves.
Close or delete any blogs and personal sites
Blogs may contain personal details about your daily life, family, jobs, health information, and financial situation, which is information a person could use to scam you or access your online accounts. If you decide to publish a blog, be mindful of the details you’re sharing.
If someone posts sensitive information about you on their website or blog, you can contact the site’s webmaster and ask them to remove the information.
You can also use the domain look-up feature on WhoIs.com* to find out the webmaster’s information. If the website refuses to remove your info, you can then send a legal request to Google* and ask them to remove personal information.
Remove all unnecessary apps from your phone or tablet
Many mobile apps on your smartphone and tablet collect personal details such as your name, email address, spending habits, and geographical location. This information from your online accounts can be hacked, leaked, or stolen, and if it ends up in the hands of a scammer, your finances could be at serious risk.
If you determine you don’t want the app to have your info, look for removing all your info and deleting it. You may have to contact the app provider and ask them to remove your information.
Also, it’s recommended to go through your apps regularly and check the privacy settings.
For instance, one app may request access to your microphone. While this could make sense for an app such as Skype, a maps app might not need access to it.
While you’re checking these apps regularly, remove the ones you’re not using to free up space and potentially lower your risk of information exposure. To remove personal information yourself, it’s important to keep a distance from shady apps that harvest data.
Remember that uninstalling an app from your device doesn’t necessarily mean the app developer deletes your personal information. Be sure to check the privacy and account settings to determine how to delete your account fully.
Use a do-not-track feature
While browsing on the web, you’ve probably noticed disclaimers about “cookies,” which is a technology that tracks your web browsing. If you don’t want that information to be tracked and stored, consider running a security software that contains features that blocks online tracking.
It would be best if you also understood the limitations of your browser and any do-not-track feature. For example, Google’s Incognito feature on the Chrome browser doesn’t save your browsing history, cookies, site data, and any information you’ve entered.
However, your browsing activity might still be visible to the websites you visit (your employer, school, or your internet service provider).
Sweep out data on your computer
There’s a plentiful amount of personal information stored on your browser history, including the websites you visit, passwords, images, and files. If a hacker gains access to your device, they may be able to use that information, but it’s easy enough to clean out. Clear your browser history, delete cookies regularly, and install security software that includes online privacy features. This will help remove personal information from your computer.
Remove outdated search results
Search engine results can expose a lot of info about you through data broker websites, social media pages, news stories, and even cached images. You can ask Google to exclude any results containing your personal information by submitting a removal request form. It’s not 100% guaranteed, but Google will try to remove personal information from its results, making it less likely that you’ll be found in search engines.
A final word on removing personal information from the internet
When you remove personal information from the internet, you can only go so far in privacy protection. It’s recommended that you also use encryption software, or a VPN, when transferring files and install internet security and antivirus software on your computer, smartphone, and tablet.
Although the process of removing personal information will take some time and effort, the end result will be the peace of mind of having increased privacy. With our online privacy services, we are here to help remove personal information from the internet. Call us today at [phone].