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How to Clean Up Personal Information on the Internet in 4 Steps

Alex Caldwell is a freelance copywriter who can turn your ideas into words that sell. He has a knack for understanding the needs of your target audience and crafting messages that resonate with them. Alex is also a skilled blogger who can write engaging and informative content that will keep your readers coming back for more.

March 7, 20247 min read


Have you left a digital trail scattered across the vast landscape of the internet that you wish didn't exist? Whether it's signing up for a newsletter or participating in an online quiz to find out which Hogwarts house you belong to, your personal information might be hanging out in more places than you realize. Living in the data-sharing age comes with challenges, especially when cybercrimes are rising at a brisk 15% per year.

Luckily, you can grab a virtual broom and embark on a mission to clean up your online presence. In this guide, we've got your back with four essential steps to help you regain control of your personal information and tidy up that digital footprint.

[Table of Contents]

Step #1: Removing yourself from Google

So, you've Googled yourself and cringed at the parade of personal details marching across the search results. Whether it's your age, address, or the embarrassing photo from that college party, it's time to take control and clear the digital clutter. It might be the go-to search engine, but that doesn't mean you need to let it spill all your secrets, so removing your info from Google is a good idea.

In its quest for online decency, Google has given us a few tools to wrestle back our privacy. The latest update, rolled out in August 2023, makes it easier to sweep away those search results that make you squirm, albeit with limitations.

First, you need to figure out what can and cannot be booted from the Google search party. Then, armed with the "results about you" tool, you'll be ready to delete the digital breadcrumbs leading to your doorstep. The "removal request" tool is your next option if the first tool is unavailable to you. You can also submit a Personal Data Removal Request and let Google know you're serious about leaving no trace.

Pro tip: Set up a Google alert for your name to see if any new personal info pops up after your cleanup.

Step #2: Old email accounts and forgotten shopping sprees

We always recommend keeping abreast of the evolving challenges and ways to stay safe online. A regular digital spring clean is part of this, starting with those ancient email accounts. We've all got them—like old relics from the early days of the internet. But beware, they're not just nostalgia-filled time capsules; they're potential treasure troves of personal info. From heartfelt messages to the nitty-gritty of your bank account, they hold the keys to your kingdom. 

Follow the provider's deletion instructions (usually hidden somewhere in the settings), and bid farewell to the ghosts of emails past. Just remember, before you hit that delete button, salvage any precious photos or important info because once it's gone, it's gone.

Now, let's talk about those sneaky shopping accounts. We've all been enticed by the allure of discounts and free shipping, creating accounts left and right. Little did we know we were handing over our address and payment info to the digital realm. Fire up your email and search for keywords like "order confirmation" or "shipping confirmation." Those pesky emails can lead to forgotten accounts in the online shopping jungle. Delete them.

Pro tip: When you feel the urge to splurge online, resist the temptation to create another account. Instead, opt for the guest checkout option. 

Step #3: Finding the data brokers

Data broker websites don't just know your name and address; they've crafted an allegedly anonymous puppet version of you, ready to be sold to the highest bidder in the digital marketplace. You can search online to find websites that collect and sell personal data. Most of these data brokers have a little nook on their sites labeled "Privacy" or "Consumer Information." Head there to unveil how they use your data and find the golden ticket to opt-out.

Well-known data brokers such as Acxiom, CoreLogic, Epsilon, Experian, and more compile data from multiple brokers, creating detailed consumer profiles. Opting out from a single data broker may not remove your information from aggregator databases, but it can still help. To opt-out, follow these steps:

  1. Find the opt-out or privacy page on the data broker's website, typically in the footer or privacy policy section.

  2. Complete the opt-out form with the required information, including your name, email, and relevant personal details.

  3. Be prepared for possible ID verification; follow the broker's guidelines on protecting sensitive information.

  4. Send the opt-out request and keep a record of any confirmation or reference numbers provided.

  5. Check for additional steps, such as email confirmations or further communication to confirm identity, and complete them if required.

Credit bureaus, the gatekeepers of your financial life, also dabble in data-selling. Once you've shooed away the data broker specters, turn your attention to the credit bureaus. Politely inform them that you want your data off their guest list, and watch as your digital presence becomes a bit more elusive.

Step #4: Tackling people search sites

Much like data brokers, digital detectives like whitepages.com and MyLife are known as people search sites, and they seem to know more about you than your mom does. 

Ever checked out one of these sites and been hit with a wave of surprise at how much they know? Your past addresses (or even your current one), phone numbers, links to your social media playgrounds, and even a highlight reel of your traffic and criminal escapades. It's enough to make anyone feel a bit exposed.

Now, getting off these sites isn't as easy as unfollowing that one weird friend on social media. To remove your information from these sites, do the following:

  1. Utilize search engines like Google, Yahoo, or Bing to identify people search sites displaying your personal information. Use quotes around your full name for precise results and compile a list of identified people search sites.

  2. Create a comprehensive list of people search sites, including those not prominently featured in initial search results. Consider well-known sites like TruthFinder, BeenVerified, Spokeo, FamilyTreeNow, Intelius, PeopleFinders, and FastPeopleSearch.

  3. Visit each site and search your name, possibly adding your city for accuracy. Confirm the correct listing based on additional details to ensure accurate opt-out requests.

  4. Find the opt-out page on each site. Explore the FAQ section for opt-out instructions; note that the process may differ across sites.

  5. Follow the site's instructions to submit the opt-out request, and if multiple listings exist, submit a separate request for each profile.

  6. Repeat these steps for every search site on your list.

Each of these platforms has its own set of hoops to jump through, and it might take a bit of your precious time. But, armed with determination, a cup of coffee, and maybe some background music, you can dive into the opt-out process. It might require a decent time commitment, but hey, you'll be reclaiming your digital “you” one click at a time. The goal here is to make your digital footprint a bit more mysterious and a lot less intrusive. 

Keep those passwords super safe

Using strong unique passwords for every account is another way to protect your digital identity. Managing these can be a herculean task. However, storing them in a password manager simplifies the process, providing both security and an efficient way to access all of your online accounts. 

TeamPassword is a fast, easy and secure way to store and share logins and passwords in the office or on the go. Storing and sharing passwords safely has never been more straightforward with our help. Keep your data safe today!

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