I read a fascinating article the other day that gained my attention titled “Erase yourself from the internet? It’s nearly impossible, but you can try,” Here’s why. For curiosity’s sake, I Googled, “How to delete yourself from the Internet” and saw that the WebSphere was buzzing with a million different articles from a million different sources with hints and tips about erasing your virtual history. But, is our internet history and identity really something that we should be looking to erase?
Then I thought to myself, ‘Trevor, if tomorrow I were to become the Prime Minister of Australia, would anything be embarrassing about me on the Internet? Would my early internet days come back to haunt me?” In my experience, people do these searches after hearing of a friend of a friend who had a stalker find something incriminating, and threatened to leak to bosses, their peers or their families unless they paid for their silence.
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How to remove yourself from the internet
First Step: Think about where your key information is being held
As the article suggests, it’s nearly impossible to remove yourself from the internet, but you can try. Start by deleting your accounts. You should begin this by deciding which ones are most likely to have confidential information on them. Social media are gold mines for stalkers, banking and eCommerce websites that store card information are perfect for hackers and identity theft, and of course, your browsing history, well… maybe best deleted for good.
Second Step: Get off Social Media and make sure you delete old accounts
Social Media is most likely going to be the cause of your grief. Maybe you took a ridiculous photo when you were younger, or you were possibly posting inappropriately within a group. Back in the day when social media was just starting to come together, you could get away with murder as they didn’t have the resources to monitor everything and some of this inappropriate content is still visible.
My point being, social media is a trap. Websites like Facebook ask you to ‘deactivate’ your account which means it is still there, just temporarily disabled and won’t disappear with inactivity. I haven’t used my Myspace account in probably a decade (or more), so I assumed that it would have been deleted, but it still exists. Just remember step one and pick your brain to recall what accounts you signed up for in the past and what they could have on them.
Third Step: Use a VPN
A VPN or Virtual Private Network creates a private network hiding your IP address when searching the net. A VPN uses a different IP address so that people trying to get your information cannot see where you are and can’t pinpoint a location. It will also give you privacy when using public networks ensuring that your data is kept private.
VPN’s serve many purposes. Before Netflix caught on, Australian’s were using them to set their location to the U.S and access the American Netflix (which is a lot better by the way). But most commonly, they are used to access a workplace or protected network remotely allowing you to trick it into thinking you are there.
Fourth Step: Remove yourself from data collection sites
What all these articles have in common is a segment on data collection sites. A Data Collection site is just as it sounds. They use algorithms to scrape the internet and pull out personal information to sell to people for many different reasons. What’s really bizarre is that there are websites out there like DeleteMe which require you to pay a yearly fee to keep you off them.
If you remember the ‘Spy vs. Spy’ segment from the MAD Magazines, it’s literally like that. They separate entities both continuously going back and forth in circles trying to outsmart each other and catch each other out but never get anywhere. And what I don’t get is that if you are trying to remove yourself from the Internet, why would you sign up to another website, giving out more information including your credit card details…
Fifth Step: Delete all of your email accounts.
Yes, remember the account you made called JIM_ROX_69_COOLDUDE@hotmail.com? You wouldn’t believe the weight this still holds with your personal information. If people can find this, they can find your birthday, name, age and so on and when they go into the deep web, the websites that don’t fully delete your accounts will give them the information they need.
And just to make life harder, I’m sure you don’t remember any passwords (unless you have been using the one password all this time (which is not a good idea!!)).
Result. Unless you have read every single terms and conditions page on every website you have ever signed up for, I can assure you there will be a few catch 22’s that say they can retain your personal information. It is nearly impossible to actually remove yourself from the internet if you have been using it as an average person would.
Recommendation: Keep your personal life separate from your work life. Set up new email addresses, don’t log in at work and go into private browsing mode if you are visiting websites that you don’t want to be stored in your browsing history.
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