Data brokers collect detailed information about who we are based on things like our online activity, real world purchases and public records. Together, it’s enough to figure out your political leanings or even your health status.
You can’t fully scrub yourself from the internet. A little bit of you will always linger, whether it’s in data-broker databases, on old social media you forgot about or in the back of someone else’s vacation photos on Flickr. But here are some ways to start:
Get Google search results updated
If a web page has been updated by its owner but it isn’t reflected in Google’s search results, you can use its tool to remove outdated content. Google will update its search results for pages that no longer exist.
Google will also consider requests to remove harmful content. If there are non-consensual explicit images, for instance, or financial, medical, or national ID data then you can ask for them to be removed. To do so, you’ll have to submit a form and provide evidence of the content.
Delete old online accounts
Start by making a list of all the old accounts you remember using and then work through them one by one. For each you’ll need to sign in or recover the account and navigate through the deletion process. It’s also worth checking saved logins in your password manager or browser and search your inbox for old subscriptions and online accounts.
Every website where you have made a purchase keeps some record and profile of you, so you should visit each site, such as Amazon and anywhere else you have created an account and request deletion.
Clean up your digital history
Your Facebook and Twitter accounts might still have posts on them that you’d rather didn’t resurface publicly. On Facebook, you should also delete your old posts or at least stop people from seeing them. Simple comments on website articles can come up in a search as well. If you can’t log on to the site and delete the comment yourself, you’ll need to contact the owners and ask them to manually remove the comment.
If you’re not ready to commit to deleting all your social media, you can make your accounts private on TikTok, Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.
Limit what you put online
Moving forward, opt out of letting sites share your cases. If possible, request sites to delete your data. Avoid signing up for anything that could result in your information being shared.
Remember to use strong privacy settings for the main apps or devices you use regularly and to delete applications you don’t use or trust. Use end-to-end-encrypted apps and disappearing messages when appropriate.
By removing your personal information from Google searches or at least hiding the embarrassing stuff, you will be able to regain a little privacy from stalkers, an employer, a nosy coworker or worse a hacker.