Digital Hygiene 🧼

How to delete yourself from the internet in 10 steps

Wondering how to delete yourself from the internet? You’re not alone. But it can be quite difficult to reduce the amount of personal information that’s floating around the web.

Think about it: How much personal information have you shared online, much of which you’ve forgotten?

You may have unknowingly shared sensitive information on your social media, such as family members’ names and address information. Or perhaps you went out of town and shared that information publicly. Someone could be out there, waiting for the perfect opportunity to pounce on that data!

Deleting sensitive information from the internet lowers the chances of the wrong person using it for malicious purposes. To streamline your data privacy, follow these tips on how to delete your personal information from the internet. You’ll reduce your risk of being hacked – and get some privacy back!

Is your personal information in the wrong hands? Use Privacy Bee’s free Data Breach Checker to find out.

Types of sensitive information

Think about how often you post on social media. Now think about all of those online accounts that you’ve set up and never even used!

There’s all sorts of sensitive information about you floating around the web. This includes but is not limited to:

  • Full name, telephone number, education history, and physical address
  • Bank account number and login details
  • Health records
  • Social Security Number
  • Health insurance data
  • Identification details

Fraudsters create robust data profiles by gathering information from public sources (like your social media profiles), from the largest data brokers and even from recent data breaches!

They can then use that information to wreak havoc. They could enter into contracts with a person’s name, use your social security number to file a fake tax return, obtain property illegally, or even steal money from your bank account. The worst of the worst may even stalk you at your home and harass you at work. It can get nasty! This is why you want to delete yourself from the internet: it reduces your data footprint and gives hackers fewer entry points into your life.

How to delete yourself from the internet in 10 steps

It’s really difficult to fully delete yourself from the internet. In fact, it may be next to impossible, since most of us enjoy many benefits from life online.

The best you can do is take a methodical approach to delete yourself from the internet and minimize your data footprint. Be patient and prioritize the steps that have the highest impact for your own personal data privacy goals.

1. Start with Google

At the top of the information funnel sits the biggest gorilla of them all: Google. The immensely popular search engine is the access point to most people’s personal information.

Although it compiles this information to customize your content, it could potentially land in the hands of fraudsters. And yes, it is possible to remove your name from Google searches.

Do this: Visit Google’s activity controls to manage ad personalization, YouTube history, and app and web activity. Since Google collects data continuously, we recommend turning on “Auto Delete” to delete your data at a regular interval.

2. Revisit your browser’s privacy controls

Most websites use cookies to personalize your experience. But when you click the cookie consent banners, you’re often agreeing to let them share your activity with third parties. Which is often how your activity is tracked from website to website!

Hackers can also insert themselves between a website and your computer, inserting a malicious cookie that can access your personal information and put you at risk for further trouble.

Brave and DuckDuckGo are browsers developed with privacy in mind. These browsers block third-party cookies that track internet activity. Regardless of which browser one uses, it is possible to apply privacy settings and add browser extensions for enhanced security.

Do this: Go into each browser’s settings and turn off cookies. We recommend using DuckDuckGo, which also has a setting to prevent browser fingerprinting, which is when your unique browser is tracked across the internet.

Brave vs Chrome

3. Clean up your online accounts

This one may be hard. If you really want to delete yourself from the internet, you’re going to have to delete your social media accounts. Including some you may have forgotten about, like that embarrassing MySpace page from years ago.

Or, if you just want to prevent strangers from seeing your content, you can update your settings to restrict public access. You may also then want to consider deleting old posts that don’t fit with your current life.

You’ll also want to delete any online accounts that you’re not using, such as online shops that still have your data even though you only bought something once. That stale data puts you at risk of identity theft! Deleting these accounts is not always easy. Many shady websites make the process difficult or pretend to deactivate or delete your account. Although it may be difficult, the data security you gain from this process makes it well worth it!

Do this: Shameless plug. Privacy Bee can help you manage your data deletion requests. It doesn’t have to be complicated; we make it simple!

4. Opt out of data brokers

Data brokers are tasked with collecting information from people and compiling said information online. Examples of these companies include PeopleFinder and Spokeo. They collect information from people’s online activities and sell it to interested parties mostly for advertisement purposes. Bad actors, however, may acquire people’s information and use it for a variety illegal purposes.

It’s going to take some legwork but you can go and opt out of each data broker and people search site. Start by doing a search for your name on different search engines and then following the lead until you find the right opt-out flow. It takes time but it may be the most impactful step to deleting yourself from the internet!

Do this: Check out our opt-out guide to the largest data brokers. Or you could automate your privacy management!

America is the world’s most breached country!

5. Delete your personal information from blogs

When was the last time you checked that old Tumblr page? We often share intimate details (especially in our younger years) that end up living forever.

Take some time to review old content to see if it’s worth making a removal request. You might want to preserve some things, but you’ll find that other things are less important to save — especially when trying to reduce your digital footprint.

Do this: Search your name on Google and other search engines…and click through beyond the first page. You may find some ancient content that needs deleting! If so, ask Google to get rid of outdated content. It may work in some instances.

7. Get rid of unused apps

When installing new apps, most people don’t care to read the Terms and Conditions. They just click the ‘I Agree’ button without much thought. The truth is, many mobile apps collect a lot of personal information that could later be hacked!

Every so often, you should delete unused apps from your phone. And whenever you download a new app, carefully read the Terms so you know exactly what you’re agreeing to.

Especially risky are shady loan apps that prompt you for personal information and, rather than give you a loan, they use this information to access your bank or other private records.

Do this: Perform an app clean up whenever you update your smartphone software. This gives you a frequent reminder to delete any apps that are lingering on your phone – and potentially tracking your activity!

8. Clean up your browser (and file sharing sites)

You should only keep the bare minimum of sensitive information on your computer. This will minimize the damage if your device ends up in the wrong hands.

Remember that your browser contains tons of data on your search history, as well as cached files, and passwords. Imagine what a hacker could do with this information! Don’t wait until it’s too late. Bulk up your online security by regularly clearing your browser history.

You may also want to consider connections to file sharing sites, such as Dropbox and Google Drive, as well as any cloud photo apps. If your computer (or phone) is stolen, there could be a lot of data that ends up being leaked…and not just your personal photos: tax returns, birth certificates and other documents are rich with useful info for hackers!

Do this: Download these privacy apps for iOS and privacy apps for Android to protect your smartphone from prying eyes.

Privacy protection is a process

Identity theft is one of those things that you don’t think about until it happens to you. Ensure that it never happens to you and protect yourself by deleting unnecessary data from the internet. A methodical approach works well – just start working down the list, step by step!

Once you’ve minimized your data footprint, periodically check to see if you were part of a data breach. If you see signs of identity theft, follow these steps to recover from identity theft. It’s a continuous process that may seem tedious but as they say, “safety first”!