It’s time to tackle the growing problem of your personal data being removed from uncontrolled online display, and there are solutions within your grasp.
Let’s face some hard facts about life online. We spend a lot of time with our electronic devices connected to the Internet. Websites track our movements, and mobile apps follow us everywhere we go and what we do. Data brokers are constantly on the lookout for little pieces of information that allow them to maintain a high-risk individual profile on us.
Like it or not, this is business. Businesses are targeting you with personalized sales pitches, hooking you up with online fraud scams, and reaping clues to your Internet identity. According to various industry reports in recent years, more than 4,000 data broker sites are collecting data from more than 500 million consumers.
Plus, you’ve probably painted a convenient picture of yourself using social media with lots of clues to your online identity. So never doubt that your Personally Identifiable Information (PII) is exposed to hackers and people trackers, putting your personal and financial security at risk.
This article will help you become more aware of the rogue’s tactics to digitally track and attack you as they attempt to steal your data and online identity and make you a prime target for ransomware. . Familiarize yourself with these strategies for removing your data from public records websites and other online hotbeds of disparity.
clean yourself off the internet
Typically, personal data is harvested, bought, and sold over and over again. It’s hard to know who has access to your information, so it becomes a constant game of monitoring where your data resides, often only to find that it’s somewhere new.
Information on the Internet is so vast that it is nearly impossible to attempt to clean up your information with a broad-stroke solution. Search engines – Google has the largest footprint in this regard – are constantly gathering information about people and businesses. Add to that your social media and website presence. All those bits and pieces of data about you make it nearly impossible to prevent your name from appearing in search results.
Many data broker sites harvest your personal information, gleaning details of your life from public records and your online activity. It is a good practice to periodically search for news about yourself because once deleted, the data may pop up again elsewhere.
You can make the task of cleaning up your online identity more manageable by taking smaller, more targeted strokes that reduce the information available about you. Do what hunters do — search your name and see what descriptions and web sources appear in the results. Start with the biggest, Google, and make a list of where you get the most detailed data about yourself.
Next, make yourself less findable. Start the process from your default web browser. Go to the browser’s Settings panel and look for the Data & Privacy heading, then turn off the History setting and Record Web & App Activity. Repeat the process in any secondary browser you use.
Review your profile details in the “About Me” sections of the apps you use and in the privacy and security settings in social media apps and business listings. Consider removing as much personal, complex information as possible from everything you do and say online. This includes photos and other family pictures, as well as apps like Facebook and LinkedIn to restrict who has access to your most sensitive information.
Remove your personal data from public records sites
The growing focus on personal privacy online is forcing businesses to make changes in the way they wheel and deal with your data. Some of the barriers and stall tactics used by data brokers and search engine companies to make it harder for you to steal your personal information from their online warehouses have softened.
Here is a list of major data collection websites to consider targeting with deletion of information requests to help protect your privacy:
You can approach these online personal information mills and ask them to extract at least some personal details about you. Sometimes, you can even refuse to allow them to sell your information.
Often, one only has to check their websites to find their contact instructions for sending an email to request removal. Some offer an online form to request deletion of your information.
External help to get control of PII
When it comes to tracking your personally identifiable information online, the more you see, the more you find. Launching a mole-mole privacy campaign could bring down all but the most staunch defenders.
To take down the lone ranger approach, you can take the help of data deletion services. These companies use their own servers and search tools to automate the process for you. Subscribing to removal services that continually scrape and remove personal data can be a good investment.
Some data removal companies excel at doing this better than others. Beware of free services or services that offer bargain basement discounts. If you’re not happy with the results of one company, try another. The monthly or annual fee may be worthwhile to help your data disappear from the web. Some of these data deletion services offer free trials to give you a chance to assess their effectiveness.
In no particular order of preference, here are some of the services to check out:
- OneRep claims to remove your personal and family information from Google and over 190 other websites.
- BrandYourself is an online reputation management and privacy company providing solutions for individuals and businesses.
- DeleteMe is a privacy information removal service that specializes in removing your personal information from Google’s vast search reporting network.
- Incogni deals directly with data brokers, so you don’t have to spend hours guarding a display of where you live, your phone number, and where you prefer on the weekend to avoid falling into the wrong hands. It uses applicable privacy laws to compel data brokers to remove your personal information from their databases.
- Privacy Bee helps to opt out of data broker databases and marketing lists.
Do It Yourself Privacy Options
If you’re more comfortable scrubbing the web yourself, a number of websites can help you achieve your privacy goals. Check out these handy web-based tools to fight your personal data privacy campaign.
- Mine lets you find out where your personal data is located on the web. It can help you curate your online exposure to better ensure you are in control of your data ownership.
- Unroll.Me is a toolbox for tackling the clutter that often builds up with online subscriptions. It automates the process of managing and revoking your digital trail with the possible sharing of your contact information. Note, however, that Unroll.Me is owned by e-commerce measurement firm NielsenIQ, so read their data collection and use policies when evaluating the service for privacy purposes.
- Jumbo Privacy is a mobile app that helps you take control of your digital presence. It monitors the content of messages you send to limit unrestricted personal data sharing. This can be a tool to help you reduce the digital fragments that have already been shared. It constantly scans the Internet for signs that your data may have been compromised.
- Just Delete Me is a website and browser extension that helps you delete your accounts from multiple web services. It uses a color-coding system to show whether the deletion process is easy, not so easy, or difficult on some 100 web services.
We hope these tips for limiting exposure to your personal data will help you secure your digital experience and protect your identity, your reputation, and your assets.