Personal Identifiable Information (PIIs) can be used by malicious elements for nefarious ends. Sometimes, the information may not have been provided by the person himself/ herself and never wanted the information to be in public domain. For example, a documentary, sting operation, comments by other exposing sensitive personal information etc.
In such scenario, while it may not be possible to eradicate yourself entirely from the internet, however, certain steps can minimize your online footprint. The process starts with search for personal information on the internet, identifying information that needs removal and finally executing the process.
However, at times we may decide to delete ourselves from the internet, to the maximum possible extent. The blog delves deeper into the steps that can be taken for the process.
Step 1: Delete or deactivate your shopping, social network and web service accounts
To delete the accounts navigate to the website and log then into the account. Try to find an option to de-activate or delete the account. Depending on the site, you may find it under Privacy or Security settings.
Before deleting a social media account, always remember to delete its contents. If contents are not deleted, before deleting/ de-activating the account, then depending on the Terms & Condition of the website, its owners may have different kind of Intellectual Property Rights over the content. It may range from using the content for analysis, displaying the content or even modifying the content as per whims and fancies of the new owners.
You may take help of several online services for deleting the content. For example, Tweet Delete, Tweet Deleter or Tweet Wipe – which enable a Twitter user to delete all the Tweets automatically. However, some may not be comfortable with the idea of sharing login credentials to a random website. They should take the pain to delete the previous Tweets manually. The same stands true for other social media sites like Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn etc.
In some cases, deleting or de-activating an account is impossible or the process is made too difficult to execute. In such a scenario, you should replace the original content with fake ones. The lesser the material, you had shared at the first place, easier it would be to execute the process.
Step 2: Remove your information from data collection sites
In recent times, data brokering has become a lucrative business. Data is continuously being gathered by data brokering companies, some of which are decades older or more. They track your online activity, collect and segregate the data, and finally sell it off to third parties which are interested in your data.For example, coaching institutes for competitive exams maybe interested in data of students passing out 12th board exams.
You can individually search for these sites for your data, and then delete yourself from the websites using opt-out requests. However, given the number of websites, it will be a highly laborious process. Also, there is a very real possibility of missing some of these data brokering sites. The solution to this problem lies in availing services of automated platforms specifically created for the purpose. They search for your information and help remove it. E.g., DeleteME service of joindeletme.com.
An additional benefit is that they keep a tab on any additional data surfacing about you online. In such cases, they notify you about the new information and help remove it as before.
Step 3: Remove the obsolete search results
Sometimes an old version of the webpage where your information was stored is cached on web browser servers, e.g., Google, Bing etc. For example, you were doing job in a certain firm and its website was showing your info. Later, you moved onto another firm, and the previous company updated its website by removing your information but when you search your name, you see an old cached page from that website where once your information was stored. However, when you open the link you don’t find anything there. In such cases, you should get it removed, by reaching the webmaster page of the browser.
Step 4: Lastly, delete your email account
Deleting the email account should always be the last step, as it might be needed in the aforesaid mentioned steps. The steps to delete an email accounts are generally simple, and just follow on the screen instruction to get the email removed.
Following the steps enumerated above shall help you remove your online information present in the form of different search results. Once you have executed the task, make sure you do not share any further information online. As mentioned above, you should also search for information about you, present online on a regular basis, and get them removed if desirable.
It has been predicted that given the growth of internet, it will become increasingly difficult to prevent online profiling and accumulation of information. With a constant (and possibly un-severable) connection to the Internet and more apps that run our lives, privacy will become an even bigger concern. It may even be commoditized to the point where only the rich can afford to be off the grid.