Erasing your digital footprint is not a quick process, and it requires subdued expectations. While it is possible to eliminate a significant portion of your online presence, true elimination is likely impossible.
Expectations and Adverse Side Effects
There is no way to completely remove yourself from the internet, especially if you had an active social media presence or maintained any form of digital communication in the past. Your information has likely been spread out far and wide with no realistic expectation of privacy.
Despite this proclamation, removing most of your digital presence is possible, making a data leak or identity theft less likely. Unfortunately, taking the following steps will also make it challenging to communicate with potential employers.
Are you still committed to deleting as much of your footprint as possible? The following four steps will take time, but they provide your best chance for removal.
1. Delete Active and Inactive Accounts
Are you currently or were you ever active on social media platforms, such as Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, LinkedIn, or Instagram? If so, you will want to log in to each of these platforms and close or delete your profile. Each forum will probably have its own process.
It is also vital to deactivate shopping sites, like Amazon, Macy’s, Gap, etc. Remember, deleting these accounts will probably result in the loss of any benefits or discounts, so be sure you want to eliminate your profile.
2. Eliminate Data Broker Access
Data broker sites are often the bain of internet users’ existence. These sites, such as Spokeo and Whitepages.com, gather your personal information and hand it out. Many turn over your data to advertisers for a small fee, and others give it away.
Unfortunately, the process of removing yourself from a data broker can be a bit of a nuisance. Most companies require paperwork, faxing, or some other archaic and bureaucratic process. If you do not have the time or the patience for such a process, consider subscribing to a platform like DeleteMe. These services go through the process for you and continually check back to make sure your information doesn’t pop up again.
It is worth noting that deleting yourself from data brokers could also remove you from Google search results. Without search results, it can be challenging for people to find you, which might be your point.
3. Remove Personal Information From Sites
If you want to eliminate old blogs or posts on social media, you might have to work with the webmaster directly. The problem is that these sites’ owners are under no obligation to pull or delete your posts.
If you cannot remove the information directly, you can contact the webmaster. If they ignore your requests, you can try sending a legal request to the host or owner. Typically, one-on-one communication is best.
If your digital information is related to an inaccurate or outdated Google search result, you can try Google’s URL removal tool. Essentially, the tool red flags the URL and submits it to Google servers requesting an update. Unfortunately, there is no guarantee this process will work.
4. Delete or Close Email Accounts
Deleting your email accounts should be the last step you take when attempting to delete your digital footprint. The previous steps require an email address. Once you finish those processes, you can go to your email provider and find the tab for closing or deleting your account.
The above will help eliminate your digital footprint, but it will not erase your entire online presence. Have you ever used these steps, or do you have more suggestions? Leave a comment below.