Everything we post online is a permanent reminder of our youthful indiscretions and naivety. It’s easy to forget that stuff posted online is there forever. Yes, that drunken pole dancing video you uploaded on New Year’s Eve could well come back to haunt you when you apply for a job as a teacher at an ultra-conservative school. But before you panic too much, there are ways to find and remove potentially damaging or personal material posted online.
Why Remove Material?
There are many reasons why removing personal information is a useful exercise. Fraudsters use personal information to help them guess passwords, create fake identities, and scam your friends and family. False information posted about you can also damage your reputation, both personally and professionally. Let’s not forget either that some individuals post personal photos and videos for malicious reasons, to shame or exact revenge in response to a perceived slight or relationship breakdown.
Isn’t Removing Personal Information a Waste of Time?
There are some people who believe removing personal material from internet sources is an exercise in futility because it could have been copied a million times. But what’s important to remember is that every piece of personal information about you online lets a scammer get one step closer to using it against you.
You can’t completely obliterate your digital footprint, but you can remove a great deal of unnecessary personal information available online with the aid of a few simple tools.
Assuming you haven’t been living off-grid for your entire life, it’s time to start searching for and removing any information that does not need to be online.
Use a site like Nuwber to search for information freely available online. Nuwber lets you search using a name, address, email address, or phone number. Once you know what’s out there in the public domain, you can set about removing it.
The next step is to see what information the main search engines have on you. Visit OneRep, enter your full name, and wait for the free report to be generated.
Once you are armed with a list of any information held on search engines and websites, it’s time to get it removed. OneRep will remove your personal information from countless websites for a monthly fee. Or use these instructions to opt out of people search sites by yourself.
Having Information Removed
You can also contact individual websites to ask them to remove sensitive information. Be polite when asking a webmaster to remove your information. If you can’t find contact information, search WHOIS records to see who owns the domain.
For sensitive information held by search engines, such as bank account numbers or sexually explicit images, submit a removal request to the individual search engine.
Prevention is Better than Cure
The best course of action is to cut back on your online activity as much as possible and protect your personal information by browsing via a VPN or proxy. Delete your social media profiles and don’t sign up for anything unless it’s absolutely necessary. However, if you are an avid social media user or you have a high-profile online brand, minimizing your online footprint is not going to be easy. If this is the case, make it your routine to find and delete your personal information, using the right tools.