Delete Yourself – How to Remove Yourself from the Internet?
In these days of big data retention and growing concerns over internet privacy, many of us would like to know how to remove ourselves from the internet. However, there is no magic button that will simply remove all traces of your online presence.
So, how can you remove yourself from the internet? The process isn’t perfect but there are steps anyone can take to make a clean break from the web. Read on as our experts teach you how to scrub your presence from the internet, remove your name from search engines, and make it harder for big data to learn about you.
Can You Remove Yourself From The Internet?
Ultimately, no, you cannot entirely remove yourself from the internet. However, you can get pretty close and at least remove your online presence to a degree that only the savviest of hunters can find a trace of you.
So much data is stored online that in most cases, you’ll be trying to bury information rather than outright removing it.
Where to begin?
Before you can attempt to remove yourself from the internet, you need to get a good understanding of your online presence. You need the answer questions such as:
- Who can find me?
- What can they find?
- Where can they find information?
- How much can I control?
Anyone can answer these questions with a simple Google search. Just search your names or any other references to you. These search results are a great place to start. Experiment with multiple queries and try to think like someone who is hunting you. Try and be specific to find as much of yourself as possible.
Why It’s Hard to Remove Yourself from the Internet?
For a number of factors, it is quite difficult to remove yourself from the internet and there is a strong chance you’ll never be able to remove all traces. But considering these factors can go a long way to helping you minimize as much of your online presence as possible.
- The internet remembers – Even if you delete your Facebook account, photos of you that were posted by others will still remain. Any posts that talk about you would also be present too. You can’t just consider what you have put on the internet, but also what others have.
- You need email – You’ll need an email account to open and maintain a bank account. Applying for a Visa to travel to another country requires an email account. Most employers will need you to have an email account too.
- Caching and archiving – Caching of page data may keep a deleted page on search engine results for some time before it is removed. Tools such as the Wayback Machine can be used to see old websites too. If someone knows the exact URL to a page about you – such as a Twitter profile – they may be able to see a snapshot of that page from a prior date.
- Data scraping – The collection and sale of data is big business. One of the biggest in the world now. Companies specializing in this practice are known as Data Brokers and while some let you opt out of data collection, many simply do not. If you’re putting your data out there, a broker will collect, store, and sell it.
How to Delete Your Online Presence
Since there is no magic delete button for the entire internet, you’ll need to remove yourself from the internet bit by bit. Deleting your online presence is a long and meticulous process where you’ll need to consider everything you have ever put out online and remove as much as you can. To help you get started, we’ve provided a few tips on how to delete yourself from the internet.
Remove your socials
The first and biggest step you can take to remove yourself from the internet is to delete your social media accounts. This isn’t just deactivating the account but actually removing it. Platforms such as Twitter, Facebook, VK, and LinkedIn all have simple methods for deleting your account.
Delete online accounts
This refers to online shopping accounts and subscriptions to anything from news outlets to YouTube. Anything that has your name or email attached to it. Some are more difficult. For example, Reddit accounts cannot be entirely removed. However, you can delete all the content from your posts and comments, thereby essentially “scrubbing” the account clean.
If a forum post cannot be deleted, simply edit the post and replace the text with something non-descript such as a period (.).
Opt-out of Data Brokers
Some, but not all, data brokers will let you opt out of data collection. Doing so will stop that company from collecting and storing your data. You’ll need to contact these companies directly and it can be a lengthy process. A database of data brokers with contact details has been provided by Privacy Rights Clearinghouse.
Alternatively, if you are covered by the California Consumers Privacy Act or the General Data Protection Regulations in Europe, you can also request for your data to be removed.
For those that truly wish to live off the grid, you can deactivate your email accounts too. Now while this is easy to do, it is one of the few components of your online presence that is an essential part of daily life. Make sure you complete this step last though – just in case your email address is required to access any other accounts that you wish to close.
Protective Measures – AKA Using a VPN
Once you’ve scrubbed as much of yourself as possible from the internet, you’ll need to take preventative measures to ensure you remain anonymous online. Using one of the best VPNs like ExpressVPN is the easiest way to ensure privacy when accessing the internet.
A VPN can prevent personal data from leaking, it can mask your IP address, and block tracking technology. Encrypting your data and traffic will stop data scrapers from collecting genuine information about you to sell to other businesses.
To truly remove yourself from the internet, you’d have to stop using the internet entirely. That’s why a VPN that secures your privacy is the next best option.
It is every person’s right to have control over the data that goes out onto the internet and there are numerous measures one can take to control how much personal information can be found online. While it’s not possible to completely destroy all traces of your online presence, the above steps will help you remove as much of yourself as possible from the internet.
Just remember that using a VPN will ensure less of your personal information makes it out onto the internet and that you must be mindful of where you input any personally identifiable data online.