I’m an online-security analyst, and one of the questions I frequently get is how to erase a person’s so-called digital life or personal online information.
You can erase your online footprints. You can make yourself “disappear” from the World Wide Web. But most of the tactics I will be describing are irreversible. This includes losing any marketing presence you’ve built up over the years that can bring you business, and it can also result in being unable to restart an eliminated account with the same name or e-mail address.
So before you begin the process of erasing your online self, ask why you wish to disappear in the first place. Are you merely a private person and don’t want your personal information where the whole world can see? Or do you feel threatened in some way (e.g., cyberstalking)?
Re-evaluate your reasons before proceeding to get rid of your personal information online. After all, you can create multiple e-mail accounts, for instance, in which one is strictly for business and one is strictly for family. And when registering on any new social media sites or forum boards, you can use a pseudonym. Nevertheless, here are tips on removing your cyber existence.
1. Delete accounts. Systematically go through every account and delete. To nab every account you’ve ever created, since it’s possible you may not remember some, go through this list:
- eBay, Amazon, Craigslist
- Support forums (medical, parenting, pet ownership, business, etc.)
- Gaming sites
- Content sites you’ve written for
- Freelance job sites
- The local online newspaper where you’re registered to post comments to articles
2. Facebook. Go to Account Settings-Security-Deactivate account. This removes you from visibility, but the account remains just in case you change your mind. To eradicate the account altogether, go to Delete My Account and hit the blue button.
3. Twitter. Go to Account Settings-Deactivate my account-Okay, fine, deactivate account. “Deactivate” means delete in this case, but you have a 30 day grace period to change your mind.
4. LinkedIn. Go to Privacy & Settings-Account-Close your account.
5. Google+. To remove only your public information, click your name/e-mail address (upper right corner). Go to Account Management-Delete profile and remove related Google+ features-Delete Google+ content.
To remove the entire Google+ account, repeat the above, then hit Delete your entire Google profile. You’ll still be able to use, for instance, your e-mail (gmail), but to eradicate every molecule of Google+ (e.g., mail, calendar), go to your homepage and hit Close account and delete all services and info associated with it.
Mopping up Online Residue
With the big four gone, now go after smaller online accounts. This includes the forum board you registered with 10 years ago for adult acne support but never posted anything. To aid in tracking everything down, use:
- Account Killer. This tool provides direct links to every account deletion page.
- Just Delete Me. Similar to Account Killer, this tool also offers Chrome Extension for extra assistance.
- Knowem. This tool does a username search on hundreds of social sites.
To go even further, you can remove personal information from background check sites. This involves more complicated procedures, but if you really want to erase yourself from the online world, the tasks will be worth it.