You may be surprised at the amount of your data that circulates online. Google collects your browsing, video watching, purchasing, location history, and much more. The tech giant can have the equivalent of 1.5 million word documents about each person. While it isn’t possible to completely remove yourself from the Internet, there are several strategies to minimize your digital footprint and enhance your privacy.
1. Deactivate inactive social media accounts
The more social media or shopping accounts you have, the greater your digital trace is. This also makes you vulnerable to data breaches and cyber-attacks. Most recently, the email addresses of 235 million Twitter users were exposed via an online data forum, evidencing how vulnerable Internet users are.
Consider deactivating the social media and shopping accounts you rarely use. Simply click the account’s settings and look for an option to either deactivate or delete your account. You may find those options under “privacy” or “security” depending on the platform.
2. Unsubscribe from newsletters
The reason why you may be receiving so many marketing emails is that you’ve signed up to receive these communications. This is normal and typically happens after ticking off an “I want to be notified about special offers” check box or something similar when making a virtual purchase. Removing your email address from marketing lists is an excellent way to minimize junk email and dodge potential data leaks.
Start by opening your email account and typing “unsubscribe” on the search bar. You’ll see all these marketing messages and newsletters you can unsubscribe from. Then, open them one by one and scroll all the way down until you see the “unsubscribe” or “opt-out” link.
3. Get in touch with webmasters
There may be an embarrassing or outdated blog post or forum entry that you wrote back in the day on a certain website. The good news is that you can directly contact the site’s webmaster and request for it to be removed.
Go to the site’s “about” or “contact us” section. Then, after getting a hold of the email address, write a message detailing why you’d like that blog or forum entry removed. Bear in mind that this might not be effective in most cases, as webmasters are under no obligation of deleting your content.
If the information you’d like to remove is your ID, Social Security number, or bank account number and the direct approach fails, you can send a removal request to Google.
4. Remove content from Google search
In some cases, even if the webmaster has removed your information from their site, an old version of the page may be cached on Google’s servers. This means that your name and other personally identifiable information are still visible on Google Search’s results.
You can make use of Google’s URL removal tool. By submitting the target URL to Google, there’s a chance that it will update its servers and delete the cached search result.
5. Remove yourself from data collection sites
There are companies that collect information from what you do online and sell it to other parties that will use it for advertisement, background screening, or risk-mitigation purposes. These companies are called “data brokers” or “information brokers”. As previously mentioned, the more sensitive information you have on the Internet, the higher the chances of it being compromised.
Now, you can deal with data brokers by individually contacting them and manually filling out opt-out requests. This is, however, a time-consuming and ineffective process, as your data can be required by the same entities.
An easier way to regain control over your information is using a service like Incogni. Once subscribed, Incogni will take care of the process and actively remove your information held by thousands of data brokering companies, enhancing your digital privacy and safety.