For whatever reason you need to delete or minimize your digital footprint, it can be done or done to an acceptable degree but it will take time and patience. We suggest you prepare a checklist, using the below categories to catalog your efforts.
1. Delete or deactivate your shopping, social network, and Web services accounts.
Shopping accounts include those that store your information, e.g., Amazon, Macy’s, eBay, etc.
Social networks include sites like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr, Google+, and LinkedIn.
Web services might include cloud storage accounts such as Dropbox, iCloud and OneDrive.
1. To get rid of or deactivate these accounts, go to your account settings (usually under Security or Privacy) and select the option to either deactivate, remove, or close your account.
2. If you’re having trouble with a particular account, try Googling “How to delete ______________” and enter the name of the account you wish to delete. Instructions should result.
3. If for some reason can’t delete an account, change the info in the account to something other than your actual info. Something fake or completely random.
2. Remove yourself from data collection sites.
There are sites out there (e.g., Spokeo, PeopleFinder, InstantCheckmate and others) that collect your information, mostly in order to upsell you or to sell your data to information brokers.
You can of course self-search on these sites and then petition each site individually to get your name removed. The problem is that each site has its own opt out procedure that can result in reams of physical paperwork, faxes and ground mail and the turnaround time (if they even agree to remove your information) can be months down the line.
An easier way to do it, is to use a service like DeleteMe at Abine.com. For about $125 – $150 for a one-year membership, the service will jump through all those tedious hoops for you and even check back every few months to ensure your name hasn’t been re-added to these sites.
3. Remove your info directly from websites.
First, check with your phone company or cell provider to make sure you number is not listed online and have them remove it if it is.
If you want to remove an old forum post or an old embarrassing blog you wrote eons ago, you’ll have to contact the webmaster of those sites individually. You can either look at the About us or Contacts section of the site to find the right person to contact or go to www.whois.com and search by domain name for the person you want to contact.
(The thing is, private website owners/operators are under no obligation to remove your posts. So, when contacting these sites be polite and clearly state why you want the post removed. Hopefully you’ll run into a compassionate manager and s/he will remove them.)
4. Delete search engine results that return information about you.
Sites like Bing, Yahoo, and Google may return results about you. In fact Google has a URL removal tool that can help you delete specific URLs.
For example, if someone has posted your private information such as a social security number or a bank account number and, for whatever reason, the site’s webmaster won’t remove it, you can contact the search engine companies to have it removed from search results.
5. And finally, the last step you’ll want to take is to remove your email accounts.
Depending on the type of email account you have, the number of steps this will take will vary.
You’ll have to sign into your account and then locate the option to delete or close the account. Many accounts will stay open for a certain amount of time, so if you want to reactivate them you can.
An email address is necessary to complete the previous steps, so make sure this one is your last.
The bottom line is that we all have a digital footprint online at this point. Restrict giving out your online information as much as possible and request that family and friends not tag you in their posts.
BNI Operatives: Situationally aware.
As always, be safe.