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6 Ways to Delete Yourself From the Internet

Depending on when you were born, there's a good chance you've spent either several decades online or have never known an offline world. Whatever the case, the internet and its advertising giants know a huge amount about your life. Removing personal information and deleting accounts is a fiddly process, so it's better to break it down into a few smaller steps and tackle them over time.

Opt Out From Data Brokers

Collecting and selling your data is big business. In 2019 the US state of Vermont passed a law requiring all companies buying and selling third-party personal information to register: In response, more than 120 firms logged their details. They included companies building search tools to look up individuals, firms handling location data, and those specializing in your health data. These companies collect everything from your name, address, and date of birth to your social security number, buying habits, and where you went to school and for how long.

Get Google Search Results Updated

You can't change the way that Google displays its search results, but there are some limited steps you can take to make sure that what's displayed is up to date and to remove harmful details, such as doxing attempts. If a web page has been updated by its owner but it isn't reflected in Google's search results, you can use its tool to remove outdated content. Google will update its search results for pages that no longer exist or are significantly different to the versions it has indexed previously.

Delete Old Online Accounts

There's no real shortcut to finding and deleting accounts that you don't use anymore. But if you really want to minimize your online presence then you need to track down those old Myspace and Tumblr accounts and remove all traces of them. For that you're going to need a web browser-preferably on a laptop or desktop-and a good chunk of time.

Clean Up Your Digital History

Even if you're not deleting your online accounts you can still clean up what data you store online. It's likely your email account contains thousands of old messages (and attachments) dating back years; your Facebook and Twitter accounts might still have posts on them that you'd rather didn't resurface publicly.

Go Nuclear

A lot of the ways to remove yourself from the web are time-consuming and involve a lot of paperwork. There may be some instances where you may want to try to speed things up a little or use legal muscle. It may be sensible to seek legal advice and help removing your data from the web if it involves defamatory statements, explicit photographs, and other harmful content.

Future Protections

It's pretty much impossible to keep your data off the internet entirely, but there are some steps you can take going forward. First, consider how much information you want to proactively put online. When you're signing up for new online accounts, consider whether you need to enter your personal details or whether it would be better to use a burner account to mask your identity. Where possible avoid using Big Tech for all your online activities.