Some of your personal information is probably available to anyone with internet access if you are a regular computer user. This information provides some benefits such as customizing your experience on a website each time you visit it, but it also makes you more vulnerable to identity theft.
- Social networks and shopping sites
- Other websites
- Data collection sites
- Cached pages
- Sensitive information
- Email accounts
Social Networks And Shopping Sites
The nature of social networks requires you to provide a good deal of information about yourself to use them effectively. The major social networking sites include Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn and Twitter, although there are also many others. Shopping sites such as Amazon also need your personal information to facilitate and customize your shopping experience.
Closing these accounts is the single most effective step in minimizing your online presence, although the specific process is unique to each site. You’ll generally begin by locating a link in your account settings that are labeled something like “remove,” “delete” or “deactivate.”
A service like DeleteMe can also help you remove your accounts on social networking and shopping sites. A one-year subscription to DeleteMe currently costs about $130.
Businesses such as cell phone providers will usually remove your information from their commercial website with relatively little effort since they’re often legally required to do so. Check the website, and ask the company to remove your listing if there is one.
You may also need to remove information such as an embarrassing post from a private website. This process can be more difficult since the webmasters of private websites are generally under no legal obligation to remove your information.
Data Collection Sites
Data brokers such as PeopleFinder, Spokeo, and Whitepages.com collect data on your online behavior. They can then sell this information to interested parties, generally for the purpose marketing their products and services to you.
Personal information such as a bank account number or social security number is particularly sensitive and may require additional steps to remove. If a webmaster won’t remove this information voluntarily, it may be necessary to file a legal request to search engines like Google. This process requires time and may not be successful, but it may be your only recourse in this situation.
The specific process for closing an email account depends on the provider. You’ll generally need to sign on to your account and locate the option for closing it. This process may require some time to complete since many providers wait for a certain period they actually close your account.