How to get your personal info off the internet

Securing your personal information online can seem like a Herculean task and deleting it permanently seems nigh on impossible. But there are some steps you can take that have surprisingly good results.

Everything you do online is recorded somewhere. Every click, every web search and even how much time you spend looking at different items on a webpage can be tracked.

Creating a unique picture of you using only your digital fingerprints gets easier every day – a fact advertisers and online scammers know only too well. Privacy is not the same as it was in the pre-digital age.

So, is there any way to take that information back? Can you delete personal info from the internet and expect it to stay deleted? It turns out there are a few things you can do to tip the balance in your favour.

Remove personal information from Google

Whether we like it or not, Google holds more data on each of us than some of the world’s most sophisticated intelligence services. It’s also one of the world’s largest data trader, which makes all your juicy info very valuable to them.

While it may not be possible to delete your information from Google’s servers entirely, the tech giant does offer users ways to have information removed from its public search results.

Using this form, you can ask Google to hide any personal information from search results. Information that can be hidden includes your full name, email addresses, mailing addresses, phone numbers and any usernames.

Disable cookies and select ‘Do Not Track’ on websites

Many websites have security features built-in to them, sometimes by law. Many websites offer you the option to disable cookies and select the ‘Do Not Track’ option. It’s a good idea to select both of these.

Cookies are small pieces of text sent to your browser by a website you visit. They record information about your visit, particularly any details you manually enter, so the site can remember you when you return.

If you’ve ever gone to log in to a site and found your details already populated, this is because of cookies. They may be convenient and save you having to remember your password, but if your goal is to scrub the internet of your info, then disabling cookies is necessary.

Same goes for apps on your phone. Apps sold through the iOS App Store and the Google Play store must give you the option to disable tracking when using them.

It is true that some apps don’t work unless you allow them to track you, so if you ever encounter that you’ll need to decide if having the app is worth the privacy intrusion.

Delete old shopping and social media accounts

When shopping online, retailers often want you to create an account with the store before purchase. There are often discounts or other incentives for you to sign up.

But each time you sign up and buy something, you’re leaving personal and payment information in another spot online. Often, after we’ve made that initial purchase, we forget the account even existed and the information sits on the company’s servers.

If a cybercriminal were to hack that retailer’s database, then your information would be exposed. So it’s better to delete the account after you’re done using it to remove it from the system entirely.

The situation is similar when it comes to your social media accounts. You might have created alternate Facebook or Instagram accounts for various reasons, or maybe you have an old MySpace account? Either way, leaving your information in multiple accounts is just multiplying the opportunities to steal it.

Have a think about any old shopping or social media accounts you might have – there’s probably many more than you expect.

Would you say you’re diligent with your personal information online? How much could hackers find out about you if they wanted? Let us know in the comments section below.

Also read: Imposter websites and how to spot them

Brad Lockyer
Brad Lockyerhttps://www.yourlifechoices.com.au/author/bradlockyer/
Brad has deep knowledge of retirement income, including Age Pension and other government entitlements, as well as health, money and lifestyle issues facing older Australians. Keen interests in current affairs, politics, sport and entertainment. Digital media professional with more than 10 years experience in the industry.

6 COMMENTS

  1. Regularly delete browsing history and cookies from your phone. That forces you to carefully consider cookies selection next time you visit a particular site.Logging on to sites that offer a one time code sent to your phone is possibly safer?

  2. Well I got absolutely nowhere fast as well just a whole lot of information on PII with no clear direction on how to request the removal of personal information etc. Does anyone out there know or understand how to do it. What about the person who wrote the article, Brad Lockeyer – kind sir could you please expand on this as it would be most helpful. Thanks

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