The internet is all knowing these days. If you think about it, the amount of information out there about a person is actually pretty scary. The more social you are, the more easily someone interested in you can find out almost anything they’d like to know.
Even if you aren’t using social networking accounts and forums you can still be leaving a digital trail. If this scares you a little, here are some tips to go off the grid. If not off the grid, at least can know what others can see when it comes to your digital comings and goings. We’ll also have some tips to clean up some of the info you aren’t cool with being out there.
Find out what’s out there
The first task on the to-do list is to see what kind of information about you is out there. The first place you’ll want to look is a simple Google search. If you’ve never done this and are pretty active on the web, you will probably be a bit taken back by what comes up. There are a few searches you’ll want to do. Start off with your name. This may pull up any number of things especially if you have a common name. Try some variations, these can show different results.
Follow that with your email address. Many online accounts use your email address in the login credentials. If you have a commonly used username, this would be another good Google search. A search for either of these may pull up all kinds of information ranging from pictures you’ve taken to online rants of you complaining about how much the new Facebook revision sucks.
Depending on your reason for wanting to disappear off the internet, it may cost a couple of dollars to see what pops up when someone runs a background check on you. Using a service like Intelius or US Search can cost about $20 -$40 dollars to run, but a search like this can pull up a lot of your history. Some of this history is your relatives, addresses and employers.
Stop using social networking sites
Deleting all you can from your social accounts then cancelling them can be a good start at getting rid of your digital footprint. Some sites may not let you manually delete your account, but all the major social networks will let you delete your account in some way.
Delete Facebook Account – This is the most thorough way to delete your account. Using this method can take up to a couple of weeks to finalize. The good news is this method deletes your whole account to the point you cannot restore it. Anything you were tagged in is no more.
Delete Twitter Account – This link brings you to the settings page where you can choose to delete your account.
Delete Google+ information – If you want to delete your association with Google+ you can delete all of your information through this link. Otherwise you need to get rid of your whole Google Account.
Delete Linkedin Account - Linkedin lets you delete your account but can keep your personal info. If you didn’t know this it is right in the User Agreement you thoroughly read. Here an excerpt from section 2 in the Linkedin User Agreement:
License and warranty for your submissions to LinkedIn.
You own the information you provide LinkedIn under this Agreement, and may request its deletion at any time, unless you have shared information or content with others and they have not deleted it, or it was copied or stored by other users. Additionally, you grant LinkedIn a nonexclusive, irrevocable, worldwide, perpetual, unlimited, assignable, sublicenseable, fully paid up and royalty-free right to us to copy, prepare derivative works of, improve, distribute, publish, remove, retain, add, process, analyze, use and commercialize, in any way now known or in the future discovered, any information you provide, directly or indirectly to LinkedIn, including, but not limited to, any user generated content, ideas, concepts, techniques or data to the services, you submit to LinkedIn, without any further consent, notice and/or compensation to you or to any third parties. Any information you submit to us is at your own risk of loss as noted in Sections 2 and 3 of this Agreement.
Those are the major accounts many people would be likely to have. If you need some ideas of other popular sites and how you would go about deleting them, here is a good site to check out.
Delete other accounts
Remember all of those email lists you signed up for to get their bribe? Well, it would be a good idea for you to keep an eye on your incoming emails to see who has your email address. You can unsubscribe from these (not a bad idea even if you are not trying to disappear for the web). Many of these may be tied to a service or web app you tried out a long time ago and forgot about.
If you can’t delete an account, you can always overwrite the data in the account with generic or fake info. Use Fake Name Generator to make a fake identity for an email address or an account. Using Fake Name Generator will give you A LOT of fake information to use to fill in all of those forms you are always asked to fill in. Preload all of this information into a form filling app and you will be all set to go.
For example, Skype is one of those accounts you simply cannot delete. You can’t even change your Skype name once it is created. However, you can delete all of the personal info or change it to something else.
Personal sites go bye bye
Do you have any personal blogs or personal sites you set up to keep people informed on what’s going on with you? You know, something other than Facebook. If so, delete them. This also goes for anything you may have out there showing your portfolio. There are other ways you can show people samples of your work. If it is on the web and can be used to find or contact you, it has to come down.
How you and others can “out” you
Once you have a good majority of your Googleable (if thats a word) information and accounts deleted, you will want to make sure you or others are not doing anything to show searchers your whereabouts. Some of the common ways your location or other information can be found is by one of these common mistakes.
No tags - You will want to make sure other people don’t tag you in pictures.
GPS - TURN OFF THE GEOLOCATION AND GPS! Digital images can have the location and other information embedded in them. If you or others take pictures of you, have them shut off the geolocation.
Don’t talk about you – Ask them not to mention you in their updates or online…. period.
Personal information - Ask people not to post your personal information on the web. If someone is trying to find you, they may know who you associate with. You could be tracked by association.
The main theme to all of this is, it’s a huge pain in the butt to delete yourself from the internet. Do what you can to get rid of your previous digital footprints and be a lot more careful about what you do in the future.
Featured photo credit: man shattered via Shutterstock