Ways to Remove Personal Information from Internet & Public Data Sources
Personal information shared online is valued more than gold and oil in the current era as they help several companies make enormous profits. Personal information can be anything from your medical records to a list of websites you are browsing in a day, the search queries you type in Google, and the images you view.
Is browsing the internet really that dangerous? If so, how do millions of people manage to browse it daily? How can I prevent my personal data from being compromised? These are the common questions lingering in the mind of several internet users. Let us explore some statistics.
The identity theft complaints had increased from 13% to 29% from 2016 to 2020. Fraud-related complaints using the stolen identity had increased from 40 to 46%, and a whopping 2,184,531 people get their personal data stolen every year in the US alone.
The shady data brokers and movie-type hackers don’t indulge in such activities alone. It is the trusted names like Google, Facebook and Verizon that indulge in mass-scale tracking. The hackers often conduct a data breach on such a company’s server to re-steal all the data and consumer persona the companies have already collected and stored. Be very careful on what you are sharing and stay updated regarding protecting your personal data.
The sad and alarming part is that most of these companies do it without the consent and the knowledge of the millions of customers trusting them. It gives the companies the leverage to say the data collection or personal information gathering was done for research purposes and escape easily with minimal fines.
Is there any actual way to keep your personal data safe online? If so, how do you do it and how to remove the data already available on public data sources?
- Google yourself and find out how many searches result with your name and details. Use a reputation management service or software to list out all the key areas these details are listed on.
- Look for potential information listed like home address, divorce details, medical records, property details, voter registration details, etc.
- Change your details or remove them if it is manually possible. For example, you might have given your house address to a natural product selling website years ago to get something delivered. Delete or change the details or close the account if possible.
- Close all unused accounts on social media, shopping sites and streaming sites.
- You can also hire the service of a private company, providing digital security services, online protection or reputation management services. They will do the tiring work for you if you are ready to spend some money. But use the Nuwber website to verify the authenticity of the people providing such services instead of giving your personal info into wrong hands.
- Advanced data protection software often prevents your personal data from getting listed by encrypting it. FireFox Relay software helps you to hide your original email address. All that is displayed is a fake address with extension @relay.firefox.in. This fake email address will be stored in the company database. But you will still receive newsletters and emails on your original email.
- Create a free burner google number and use it as your mobile number on all Google accounts and social media accounts. Don’t give your original home address on any account. Give a P.O. number if possible, or your office address.
- Legal details, like property and tax information, collected by people tracking websites (Spokeo, Whitepages, etc) can be removed by sending them a legal notice or paying a certain fee to them to delete your records permanently from their sites.
The easiest way is to use their opt-out page. Search your details on their website and copy the URL of the page showing all your details. Paste it into their opt-out page, confirm their verification and the details will be removed within a few days.
- Some websites require you to pay a fee for the service like enlisting in a no-callers list to remove your details completely from their database. Talk to their customer service and ask the details to be removed entirely.
- Create a fake date of birth, mother’s maiden name, place of birth, and email ID through a free account and use it consistently on Google, Amazon, Facebook, and all other social media accounts. Your real data will stay hidden as all the common places where your personal data is tracked will have only this made-up information.
- Set all your social media settings, Amazon, Facebook and Google settings to private and don’t allow the public to view it. Update all the active accounts with the altered data you intend to use to make the AI believe this is your true data.
- Visit the DMV, the county clerk office and other public places like libraries where you have already given the original address and update them with just a P.O. Box number or the UPS box address. You can even use a virtual address which will forward queries to your original address while keeping it masked.
- Check in the “.gov” offices what kind of information about you is available. Check whether your social security number is displayed. Submit a request form to hide or not display your personal details on the websites.
- If your details are linked with someone else’s account like your spouse or kid, take proper measures to hide the important details from there too.
Following these 15 steps will help you remove all the important personal information from public records, data brokers and people-finding sites. Adjusting your settings to private will allow you to restrict access on all social media and search engines you use.
Using well-designed, high-end security software will prevent further data leakage from your side. It is important to take these steps in the current world to stay safe online and keep your loved ones protected from the dangerous clutches of online tracking and phishing scams. Be alert and stay safe protecting your digital data, the same way you protect your physical assets.