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How to delete yourself from the internet

Can you erase yourself from the internet? We all know it’s possible to wipe our browser history or deactivate a social media account, but how far can you go? This guide will take you through all the necessary steps to erase your online presence.

How to delete yourself from the internet

Why delete yourself from the internet?

By removing yourself from the internet, you can reduce the risks associated with having an online presence, such as malware infection, social engineering, and personal information breaches, including passwords and other login information being stolen or exposed by accident.

You might also consider erasing your digital footprint to get rid of your personal information readily available online. You might want to live a more private life by deleting your posts and comments on social media, your unflattering photos and videos, as well as your profiles and online accounts that contain personal data.

As revealed by the 2022 “Would you delete yourself from the internet?” survey by NordVPN, carried out in the UK, Canada, and Australia, more than half of the respondents were worried about their banking information being on the internet and wanted it removed, while around 37% would have also liked to remove their unflattering pictures and videos. However, only around 15% of the people interviewed said they knew how to delete their personal information from the internet. This might get you wondering too how to erase yourself from the internet. So read on and find out how.

How to remove personal information from the internet

If you’ve been using the internet for years, removing your personal information and entangling yourself from the web won’t be easy. When you share something online, you usually give up control of that piece of data. It may still belong to you, but it’s very difficult for you to limit who has access to it and what it’s used for.

The first step in the tedious journey of internet scrubbing will be to understand what information you’ve put out there so you know what you’ll have to scrub away.

  • Data scraping. A whole industry has grown around “data scraping” — companies take the information you put online, store it in databases, and then sell it on to other businesses and organizations. Deleting your data from their databases may be very difficult or impossible, but we’ll discuss a few potential methods below.
  • Old accounts. It’s easy enough to track down and delete, anonymize, or hide accounts you use every day. But what about old accounts on forgotten or defunct sites? Will you be able to delete them all – if you can even find them?
  • Caching. Let’s say you delete a page with information about yourself. It may still take a while before mentions of that page (and your data) disappear from search engine results. That’s because that data may be stored in their caches for quick access when people search for you.

Internet scrubbing is a challenge, but it’s not impossible and it is your right. We’ll go over everything step by step.

Delete social media and online shopping accounts

Deleting yourself from the internet is a long journey. The first place you need to visit is your social media accounts. The companies behind these platforms hoard your data, and your social profiles will often be the first ones to come up in Google searches.

Delete your social media accounts

Below you’ll find links to various guides, each covering the deletion process for a different social media account. These links are a great place to start if you want to delete your online presence. As long as you keep using these accounts, you’ll continue to generate data and maintain an online presence for yourself.

Delete accounts for online shopping, dating, and other services

Social media is just one piece of the puzzle. You can also follow our guides for deleting online shopping accounts, dating sites, and other services you might have signed up to.

PRO TIP: You can contact companies directly and ask them to remove your information from their databases. It might take a while for some companies to comply with such requests. However, in most cases your request will be fulfilled. You can also find third-party services, like Incogni, to engage these companies on your behalf.

Remove your information directly from websites

Deleting accounts is relatively easy. The next step is to start auditing and cleaning up websites that host your information, including data broker sites. Start by making a list of all the sites you remember engaging with (creating logins, leaving comments, replying to forum posts, and so on). Here are a few areas to focus on:

Close websites you own

If you’ve ever acquired a domain, whois.com has a record of that. Maybe you once opened a free blog on WordPress. Go over and close any sites you owned or registered with your email address.

Scrub yourself from forums

On some forums, deleting your account will also remove your messages. This isn’t always the case, though. Use the search function to find your posts and edit them, leaving only a dot in the place of your original message. Also, check to make sure your details weren’t mentioned in other people’s posts. If they were, ask those people to delete them. Lastly, you can delete your account.

Use search engines

Run your information through search engines. Putting your email address, your phone number, or your name into Google’s search bar can bring up old accounts and posts you forgot existed. Carefully check these Google search results to know if there is anything else to remove.

Opt-out of data brokers

Scraping the internet for people’s personal data and selling it is a lucrative industry for data brokers. You can start manually opting out of data brokers one by one (this is easier if you have a lot of patience and plenty of coffee). For example, contact data broker companies like BeenVerified, Acxiom, and PeopleFinder directly, either by email or through a pre-made form, and opt out of their data collection practices.

You can also use services like Incogni that let you opt out of data brokers automatically.

Getting a VPN on your device is also a good idea. It will improve your online privacy by hiding your IP address.

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Remove unwanted search results

Fighting with Google may seem like an impossible task, but it actually already offers the tools to help you wipe unwanted results from the web. For example, if someone exposes your sensitive data, Google has a process in place to remove that information from search results.

On the other hand, you can always email the owner of the site and ask them to remove certain data. If you’re in the EU, you can use the GDPR’s Article 17 (also known as the right to be forgotten) to force sites to take down your personal information.

Deactivate your email accounts

Deactivating your email account is the last step in the process because you will need your email address to complete the previous steps, especially when trying to delete accounts associated with it. However, it’s an essential stop on this journey and should be relatively straight-forward.

Keep in mind that if you use Yahoo, you need to log into your account and set it for termination, which won’t happen right away. In most cases, the data will be removed within 180 days.

On our blog, you can also find a full walk-through of how to delete Gmail, and your Google Account as a whole (you’ll need to do both to remove information from Google completely).

How to avoid data collection in the future

Removing yourself from the internet completely only really works if you never use the internet again. Assuming that you don’t want to delete yourself completely, you can take action to limit how much of your data is shared and spread online.

  • Limit social media use. If privacy is your priority, social media is not your friend. The rise of biometric data scraping (some corporations build their facial recognition databases using images scraped from Facebook and Instagram) demonstrates that social media is a huge threat to personal privacy.
  • Use privacy-focused browsers. Google Chrome may be the biggest browser on the market, but it’s not the only option. Browsers like Brave and DuckDuckGo offer a more private browsing experience.
  • Use NordVPN. A VPN encrypts your browsing data and masks your IP, so companies can’t spy on your data if you don’t want them to. NordVPN’s Threat Protection feature also blocks third-party trackers to ensure increased privacy. While bad internet habits can still get you in trouble, a VPN goes a long way to keeping your internet activity private and secure.

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