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In addition to all the other rights that you have, you also have “the right to be forgotten.” In practical terms, this means that big Internet search giants (yes, Google, we’re talking about you) no longer have the right to keep a permanent record of your presence on the Internet. And it means that big social media giants no longer can make it incredibly confusing or complex to remove (or, at least, deactivate) your account. If you are looking to remove yourself from the Internet, here are a few quick tips.
Tip #1: Start with your social media and social networking accounts
The first place to start is with your social media platforms. If you’ve been thinking about deleting your Facebook account, now is the time to take the big plunge. Facebook collects an alarming amount of data about you (and your friends), and then often shares this data with third-party companies (such as advertisers or data brokers). If you can’t quite bring yourself to delete your Facebook account, at least check your privacy settings. You need to make sure that you turn off the Facebook data spigot. The same goes with any other social media or social networking accounts that you use – including Tumblr, Reddit, Twitter, Instagram or Snapchat.
Tip #2: Do a Google search of yourself to see what shows up
Next, you’ll want to see what sorts of data and information Google is surfacing about you. The real reason why “the right to be forgotten” gained so much momentum is because people were getting sick and tired of having embarrassing information show up about them online. Most likely, before you ever go to an interview, a meeting, or a date (!), someone has Googled you, just to see what shows up. Your first priority should be cleaning up all the stuff you’d rather not people see. In some cases, this might require reaching out directly to websites, and asking them to take down content.
Tip #3: Remove yourself from the data broker ecosystem
There are a lot of data collection sites that help to fuel the vast data broker ecosystem. Some of these sites include PeopleFinder, Spokeo and WhitePages.com. Your goal should be to remove your data from these sites.
Tip #4: Check your app settings
You’ll also want to make sure that your mobile phone is not creating a vast data trail for people to follow. Check your privacy settings for these apps, and make sure that you have not given permission to them to access your contacts, your photos, or any other sensitive information. Some apps include default settings that give them access to a surprising amount of data.
Tip #5: Remove all unnecessary online accounts (including email)
If you’re like most people, you probably have a handful of different email accounts. You need to ruthlessly hunt them down and remove them. You might not need the extra email address your cable Internet provider is giving you, for example. And, if you have set up a variety of profiles for online shopping sites, you can probably remove those as well.
As a final measure, think about embracing privacy-enhanced tools, solutions and offerings anytime you use the Internet. For example, instead of using Google to search for results, try using DuckDuckGo. Or use Firefox (with its many privacy features) as your new default web browser. You might not be able to remove yourself from the web entirely, but you can certainly make it a lot harder for people to find you.