You’re reading this, so you’re an internet user. Odds are, you spend a lot of your life online and that’s pretty normal for most of us. This is even truer now, with the advent of the novel coronavirus, as more and more people are working from home – more of our lives have become online-based.
The truth of the matter is, as useful as the internet is and as much fun as it is, we give up a substantial amount of privacy when we’re online. It doesn’t matter if you don’t have social media accounts either – using the internet means that information about you is being collected in some way or another. For example, search your name and last name on Nuwber and see what it pulls up. With access to a public database of US citizens, it provides a good picture of what’s so easily and readily available about you online – for anyone, anywhere to find.
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There are a few ways that your personal information gets online. One of the reasons, it has to be said, is that you put it there yourself. The more you think about it, the more sense it makes. Every time we sign up for an account, create a dating profile on some platform, or do a bit of online shopping, we’ve given our details away to big data companies. This information includes your name, physical address, telephone number, and education history. It also includes your bank account numbers, credit card details, health insurance details, passport numbers and identification numbers. You’ve probably sent this information to many online platforms without even batting an eyelid because we think we can trust them and that their servers are secure.
Well, many big data companies try to keep their servers secure, but this doesn’t mean that data breaches don’t occur. They occur more frequently than we think. Unauthorized individuals, like hackers and other cybercriminals find new ways to get around database security all the time and sell this information on the dark web. It’s often what leads to identity theft. And then you get data brokers, whose purpose is to collect data and sell it, making themselves loads of money in the process. These are not always shady online companies – the biggest data brokers are those who we thought we could trust most, like Facebook and Google! These companies, and others like them, collect your data and your web browsing habits. This means that they know how you act online, what your preferences are, when you’re likely to be online, how long you spend online, etc. this information is really valuable, especially for advertising purposes.
With that being said, how can you remove your digital self from the internet? To tell you the truth, it’s not easy, especially since many of us have been online in some form or another for many years now. The best way to go about removing your personal information from the internet is to minimize your digital footprint. That means leaving less of a trail online while you’re busy online. Unless you want to delete absolutely every account you’ve ever had, including requesting your information to be removed from all those platforms and going off the grid completely, the following tips are really going to come in handy.
What? You’re asking me to delete my social media accounts? Well, yes, if you don’t want your personal information out for others to have access to. First off, social media accounts make it really easy for others who are able to view your profile to know what’s going on in your life. Many of us share our routines, what we do at our jobs, who we spend our weekends with, and so on, with all our online friends. Sometimes we share this information with people we don’t even know, especially if our privacy settings aren’t turned up. Make a list of all your social media accounts and start to deactivate your account. You’ll start, most likely, with Instagram, Facebook, LinkedIn, and TikTok, but what about those older social media accounts that you used back in the day? Go back and delete your MySpace, Live Journal, Ringo, and Orkut accounts, too!
We’ve probably spent hours crafting your website and sharing your thoughts via your blogs, but you’ve come to realize how much these can tell about you if people visit your site and read through your posts. Be mindful of the details you share on your blog since we often write about personal matters and intimate details on these platforms.
There are likely many apps across all your devices – smartphones, tablets, laptops – which you haven’t used in a while. Go through your devices and look for all those apps that you haven’t opened in a while. If you haven’t opened them in three to six months, it’s likely that you won’t need them, so declutter your devices. Many apps collect your personal details, including your geographical location, spending habits, and online behavior. Check the privacy and account settings on these apps and understand how to fully remove your account, including your information. Also, in future, make a point of reading the Terms and Conditions and Privacy Policies before setting up an account on any app or platform.
It’s easy enough to download and install security software with features to block online tracking from websites. Cookies are one way that websites track your behavior online, even after you’ve navigated away from their site. Alternatively, private web browsers, like Mozilla Firefox, which includes a do-not-track security feature.