Published on Jul 07

How do I delete myself from the Internet ?

How do I delete myself from the Internet? A question we all had at one time or another. Explore the tools at your disposal to delete yourself from the Internet and keep your digital footprint under control. Learn how to request data deletion from companies that hold your data.

How do I delete myself from the Internet ?

Surprised by what you found when you Googled yourself? Disappointed with the search results, you now want to erase your personal information from the internet.

It's relatively easy to make your social media accounts private (or delete them if you're ready), remove old personal blogs, and delete poorly considered public comments. But what about personal information posted on websites you don't own?

Thankfully, there are solutions. Although the process of removing yourself from the internet is complex and time-consuming, it can be done. Before we get into the steps to remove your personal information, let's first look at the different types of personal data, how it ends up online (hint: data brokers play a big role), and why it's important to protect it.

Publicly visible & accessible data versus “back-end” data

Do you still remember the moment you first logged onto the Internet? Depending on when you were born this can be in the close or distant past. One of the first things that you probably did when you got online was create an email address. Once this happened you slowly bur surely begun creating a digital footprint comprised of different bits and pieces of information you leave behind as you interact online.

These can be:

  • Online Information: This includes your IP address, location data, username, browsing history, and cookie IDs.
  • Contact Information: Includes details like your name, mailing address, email address, and phone number.
  • Sensitive Information: Covers data related to race, ethnic origin, bio-metric data, sexual orientation, sex life, and health.
  • Content: This would be personal content that you created or uploaded such as your photos when you were a baby or your CV, posted on social media.
  • Personal Identifiers: Such as social security numbers, passport numbers, and driver’s license numbers.
  • Pseudonymized Data: Information that has been processed to obscure its connection to an individual without additional data, like using a reference number instead of a name.

Chances are, the info you don’t want to float around online, like your address or phone number, is on data broker and people-search sites. These sites often make some info public but charge for more detailed stuff like mailing addresses. Technically, data brokers aren’t breaking the law since they gather information that's already public.

They also get a lot of info from social media. Every time you make a non-private post, you’re sharing your details with “the world”, including to companies operating automated scripts that parse social media sites, and collect vast amounts of information.

Many data brokers also buy data from companies and websites that use cookies to track your online behavior. This means that on all the sites where you click “Accept” on the Cookie banner you are leaving a fragment of your online browsing activity.

At the end of the day data brokers collect and aggregate all of these bits and pieces of information, to reconstruct your browsing session end to end.

They then build detailed (though not always accurate) profiles about you, which can be used for targeted ads, determining job eligibility, and more.

Why does this matter? I have nothing to hide …

It’s scary that strangers can dig up your private info with just a quick Google search, especially since it opens the door to identity theft.

According to a US study there is an Identity theft happening every 22 seconds, in the US alone, with an average median loss of 500$ for the victim. So it’s rather a matter of when rather than if. Below you may find what are the tools at your disposal if you want to delete yourself from the internet:

Delete selected search results

Google offers a functionality to raise a request to erase from the search results entries that you may want removed. But this does exactly what it says. It removes the search results in Google and not the content itself. Which means the content is still accessible on the original website and visible if you navigate directly on that page.

Either way, it is a good tool to use in some cases, when the company is either non-responsive, or in a jurisdiction without some proper personal data protection legislation.

Send deletion requests

By far the most effective way to get both your public and back-end data deleted from companies is to exercise your right to data deletion, if you live in a jurisdiction where this is possible.

To do this, you need to know who the legal entity behind a website or service that has your data. If we are talking about a website, you can find this out by accessing their Whois information on several free tools like this. Once you know this, you need to identify the privacy contact of that company and submit a formal deletion request using a deletion request template.

The company then has 30 days to comply with your request and delete the data.

Sounds complicated? We're here to help.

You are in luck. You can also use a service like AgainstData to automatically identify most of the companies in your digital footprint and automate the deletion request sending with over 200.000 of companies already mapped in the database. This can slash the time needed to complete this operation from days to minutes.

Stay safe. Share less.

If you made it this far it means you are taking the topic seriously for your safety and the ones close to you. Now that you know how to delete yourself from the Internet, all you need to do is maintain your digital footprint under control by carefully assessing any future registration to services and websites, and performing regular sanitation checks on the companies you are interacting with.

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