It’s time to tackle the growing problem of removing your personal information from unmonitored online screens, and there are solutions at your fingertips.
Let’s face some hard facts about life online. We spend a huge amount of time with our electronic devices connected to the Internet. Websites track our activities and mobile apps go with us everywhere and track what we do. Data brokers are constantly looking for pieces that allow them to maintain a high-risk personal profile on us.
Like it or not, this is a business. Businesses target you with personalized sales pitches, block you with online fraud scams, and collect traces of your Internet identity. According to various industry reports in recent years, more than 4,000 data broker sites collect data on more than 500 million consumers.
Plus, you’ve probably painted a comfortable picture of yourself with plenty of clues about your online identity through social media. So never suspect that your personally identifiable information (PII) is being exposed to hackers and people trackers, putting your personal and financial security at risk.
This article will help you become more aware of the tactics criminals use to track and attack you digitally as they try to steal your data and online identity and make you a prime target for ransomware. Check out these strategies for deleting your data from public records sites and other dens of online inequity.
Clean yourself off the internet
Typically, personal information is collected, bought, and sold many times. It’s hard to know who has your information, so it becomes a constant game of tracking where your data is, often only to find it reappears in a new place.
Information on the Internet is so ubiquitous that trying to clean your information with a broad resolution is nearly impossible. Search engines. Google has the biggest footprint in this regard. continuously aggregate information about people and businesses. Add to that your social media and website presence. All those details and data about you make it nearly impossible not to show your name up in search results.
Many data broker sites collect your personal information by gathering details of your life from public records and your online activities. It’s a good practice to check regularly for news about yourself, as data can reappear elsewhere after you’ve removed it.
You can make the job of cleaning up your online identity more manageable by taking smaller, more targeted strokes that reduce the amount of information available about you. Do what man hunters do. search for your name and see what details and web sources appear in the results. Start with the biggest, Google, and make a list of where you find the most detailed data dumps about you.
Next, make yourself less searchable. Start the process with your default web browser. Go to the browser settings panel and look for the Data and Privacy headings, then turn off the history settings and Web and app activity logs. Repeat the process in any secondary browsers you use.
View your profile details in the About Me sections of the apps you use and the privacy and security settings of social media apps and business listings. Consider removing as much personal, entangled information as possible from what you do and say online. That includes photos and other family images, as well as apps like Facebook and LinkedIn to limit who has access to your most sensitive information.
Remove your personal information from public record sites
The growing focus on personal privacy online is forcing changes in how businesses manage and handle your data. Some of the barriers and tactics used by data brokers and search engine companies that made it difficult to extract your personal information from their online repositories have been relaxed.
Here is a list of key data collection sites to consider targeting information request removal to help protect your privacy:
You can contact these online personal information factories and ask them to remove at least some of the personal information they have about you. Sometimes, you can even deny them permission to sell your data.
Often, all you need to do is check their websites to find their contact details to send a deletion request email. Some offer an online form to request that your information be removed.
Outside Assistance to Gain Control of PII
When it comes to storing your personally identifiable information online, the more you look, the more you find. Launching a privacy campaign can wear down all but the staunchest defenders.
To mitigate the Lone Ranger’s approach, you can enlist the help of data removal services. These companies use their own servers and search engines to automate the process for you. Subscribing to removal services that permanently clean and remove personal data can be a good investment.
Some data removal companies excel at doing this better than others. Beware of free services or those offering bargain basement deals. If you are not satisfied with the results of one company, try another. Monthly or annual fees can be expensive to keep your data off the web. Some of these data removal services offer a free trial to allow you to measure their effectiveness.
In no particular order of preference, here are a few services to check out:
- OneRep claims to remove your personal and family information from Google and over 190 other websites.
- BrandYourself is an online reputation management and privacy company offering solutions for individuals and businesses.
- DeleteMe is a privacy removal service that specializes in removing your personal information from Google’s vast network of search reports.
- Incogni deals directly with data brokers, so you don’t have to spend hours protecting the display of where you live, your phone number, and where you want to hang out on the weekend from falling into the wrong hands. It uses existing privacy laws to force data brokers to remove your personal information from their databases.
- Privacy Bee helps opt out of data broker databases and marketing lists.
Do it yourself Privacy options
If you find it easier to clean the web yourself, several sites can help you achieve your privacy goal. Check out these handy web-based tools to combat your personal data privacy campaign.
- My lets you find where your personal information is on the web. It can help you reduce your online exposure to better control the ownership of your data.
- Unroll.Me is a toolbox that can take care of the confusion that often comes with online subscriptions. It automates the process of managing and canceling your digital footprint with the possible exchange of your contact information. However, note that Unroll.Me is owned by e-commerce measurement company NielsenIQ, so read their data collection and use policy when evaluating the service for privacy purposes.
- Jumbo Privacy is a mobile app that helps you control your digital presence. It monitors the content of the messages you send to limit the unrestricted sharing of personal data. It can be a tool to help you reduce your already extensive digital footprint. It constantly scans the Internet for signs that your data is compromised.
- Just Delete Me is a website and browser extension that helps you remove your accounts from many web services. It uses a color coding system to indicate how easy, not so easy, or difficult the process of deleting 100 web services is.
We hope these tips for limiting the disclosure of your personal data help protect your digital experience and protect your identity, your reputation, and your assets.