Social media has made everyone’s life an open book (one that’s open a bit too far in some cases). As more and more companies and individuals come to rely on the Internet as a primary source of information about others, so too does the possibility of compromising info reaching the wrong person grow.
Pull the Plug
For folks concerned about their personal information potentially costing them jobs and relationships, or for those dealing with the harsh realities of social media fallout, the decision to “pull the plug” is an increasingly attractive one. And while it might seem impossible to keep your private life private and your Internet presence to a minimum in a 24/7 connected world, the truth is you can disappear online with a little effort and dedication.
The first step to keeping a low profile online is (as you may expect) to stop using social media sites and delete your accounts. If you’re confused about where to start, pages such as BackgroundChecks.org’s JustDelete.Me offer links and tips to help you review your existing presence and get the process moving (and whether it is actually possible to delete your account at all).
To remove information that’s been gathered about you (as compared to information posted by you), you may want to consider the similarly-named DeleteMe. This service promises to review popular data collection sites and remove your personal contact information and photos, generating a report every three months to keep you updated on what’s been removed.
Pulling the plug on social media and removing any compromising or personal data is a great start, but unless you’re planning on abandoning the Internet altogether, these steps are just the beginning.
Using Dummy Accounts
In order to maintain your new-found anonymity, you must master reputation management, learn to use dummy accounts, and take advantage of anonymous searching. This might seem like a lot of effort, but it sure beats waiting for the Eraser.
Disappearing from the Internet isn’t for everyone. But if you’re serious about your privacy, your security, and your reputation, taking the time to make yourself invisible online is worth the time and trouble.
Thank you to DynamoSpanish.com for the Spanish version of this infographic. (English transcript below).
Transcript: How to Disappear Online
The Internet has made it possible for personal details to be a quick search term away.
From prospective jobs to prospective partners, there are some parts of our lives we don’t want published on the Internet. So restore your online dignity and take back your digital identity with the following steps.
Step 1.) Deactivate Primary Accounts
Begin deleting the profiles that you know exist.
- Go to your Account Menu
- Click “Security”
- Select “Deactivate your account.”
- To permanently delete your account, contact the Facebook staff.
- Go to your account settings
- At the bottom of the page, click on “delete my account”.
- Twitter will prompt you to enter your password
- Click on your screen name in the upper right hand corner of the screen
- Go to Account Management
- Click on “Delete profile and remove related Google+ features”
- Then, select “Delete Google+ content”
- Go to the “Privacy & Settings” page
- Click on “Account”
- Go to “Helpful Links”
- Click on “Close your account”
Step 2.) Search for Yourself
Perhaps you have an account somewhere that you forgot about such as a Myspace, LiveJournal or another inactive blog. Use search engines to track down your old web activity.
- Search your name in every major search engine
- Baidu (in China)
- Yandex (in Russia)
- Login to your old accounts
- Delete each account accordingly
Tip: Forget your username or password? Every site has an option to retrieve each just in case. Follow the steps to retrieve your login information via email.
Step 3.) Falsify undeletable accounts
Did you ever want to change your name? Now you can. Get creative! For the accounts that you are unable to delete, post fake information.
- Create a false name
- Change cities
- Create a new life
- Enjoy your new alter ego!
Step 4.) Unsubscribe from Mailing Lists
- Collect all email newsletters, ads and promotions
- At the bottom of each of these emails is a text link that says “Unsubscribe”
- Click the link
- Follow the prompts to take your email address off of their mailing list
Step 5.) Delete Search Engine Results
You can request search engines to delete results that return information about you.
Tip: Google has a URL removal tool to help you with this process.
Step 6.) Contact Webmasters
For websites that you have no control over you’ll need to personally contact the Webmaster.
- Be polite
- Be patient
- Be ready! Some webmasters may argue that public information should remain public.
Step 7.) Consider Data Clearinghouses
There are companies that track your online behavior and sell that data to other companies. Websites like Intelius, Spokeo and PeopleFinders are commonly used data clearinghouses. To delete your information from these sites, prepare to do the following.
- Make an absurd amount of phone calls
- Fill out a metric ton of paperwork
- Use a fax machine
- Consider a paid service, such as DeleteMe, to do all of the legwork
Step 8.) Check In With Your Phone Company
Some phone companies have your information listed online. Ask your provider to make you “unlisted”.
Step 9.) Delete Your Email
Leave this step for last just in case you need your email to receive information regarding passwords and usernames you might have forgotten.
- Seek legal counsel when it comes to information that is false or defamatory to your character.
- Check in with clearinghouses and background check websites yearly to catch any new information that has been collected about you.
- Use DuckDuckGo, an anonymous search engine that does not collect or share search history.
- How to Delete Yourself From the Internet – wikihow.com
- How to Delete Yourself From the Internet – howto.cnet.com
- How to Commit Internet Suicide and Disappear from the Web Forever – lifehacker.com
- How Do I permanently delete my account – facebook.com
- Twitter Support: Deactivating your account – support.twitter.com
- Delete my Google+ Profile – support.google.com
- Closing Your Account | LinkedIn Help Center – help.linkedin.com
- Webmaster Tools – My Removal Requests – google.com
- Intelius – intelius.com
- Spokeo – spokeo.com
- DuckDuckGo – duckduckgo.com