How to remove yourself from the internet and from people search sites • Graham Cluley
Graham Cluley Security News is sponsored this week by the folks at Incogni. Thanks to the great team there for their support!
Cybercrimes happen much more often than you might think and affect a growing amount of people. With crimes such as identity theft and various other scams, being mindful of your digital footprint is more crucial than ever. So how can you minimize the threat?
1. Opt out from data broker sites and people search websites
Nowadays, information can be worth more than money, so no wonder the data broker industry is booming. Moreover, without any definitive federal laws regulating this business, data brokers have been known to not only collect data but also sell it. That’s why, with a growing number of data brokers and people search sites, your personal info is more vulnerable than ever.
An average people search site gives you access to a myriad of personal information, including current and past addresses, phone numbers, property records, and marital status. They collect all of these personal details from public records, court records, and other open sources. Fortunately, most also allow you to opt out.
In the case of many websites, the removal process is fairly straightforward, as you may be required only to send an opt-out request. However, others may involve an ample amount of time and patience. It can be particularly time-consuming if you decide to opt out of more people search sites.
That said, this is where data removal services can really help out. By sending automatic opt-out requests on your behalf, both to data brokers and people search sites, you can focus on spending time on more pleasant things.
2. Delete old online accounts
Over the years, you’ve surely created dozens, if not hundreds, of accounts on various websites. However, even if you haven’t logged onto your old accounts in forever, those web pages can still be sharing your personal information. What’s even worse, you may not even be aware that a data breach occurred, thus making your account information known to hackers.
Log into your email account and search for keywords that might have appeared in welcome emails (“welcome,” “account,” etc.) Once you find these emails, head to the web page where you set up your account and simply deactivate it.
3. Remove personal information from Google Search results
Thanks to Alphabet’s feature that allows you to remove private information from Google Search results, you can now influence your online data shown in the search engine. Although the process isn’t always successful, as Google has strict policies regarding data removal, it is definitely worth trying.
Just go to the removal request web page and begin the process. If you are very determined to minimize your digital footprint, you can also try to delete your personal information from other search engines.
4. Deactivate social media accounts
Social media sites, by our choice, of course, store plenty of our personal information. By sharing social media posts, we give these sites access to our data, which can later end up being sold. That is why the safest approach is to simply delete your social media accounts.
That said, if you are not ready just yet to go entirely off the grid, you can also tighten your privacy settings. This will at least minimize the number of people who can see your activities. Also, if you have time, consider going through your old social media posts and deleting them. This way, you can remove at least some of your data without entirely giving up on social media websites.
5. Optimize your online privacy settings
Websites gather plenty of data when browsing the internet without you even realizing it. From cookies to location tracking, you are informed about the process, but you often are not aware of the aftermath. This data can later be shared and even sold, thus putting you at risk of being targeted by scammers or hackers.
What can you do? Optimize your privacy preferences. Set all accounts to private, disable ad personalization, turn off activity tracking, and reject cookies. This will cut down the amount of online data about you.
Yes, scrubbing your digital footprint is time-consuming and can even be nerve-racking. But we promise just by sending out a removal request to a data broker or by deleting a few old accounts, you are able to significantly reduce the risk of becoming an online target.
Looking for a trustworthy data removal service? Subscribe to Incogni’s yearly subscription plan for just $5.79 per month and see how your personal information disappears from one data broker or people search site listing after another.
If you’re interested in sponsoring my site for a week, and reaching an IT-savvy audience that cares about computer security, you can find more information here.