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How to Disappear from the Web

If you've ever been the victim of identity theft, or a stalker, or you just value your privacy, Tech Talker has the tools to help you ditch the digital age and remove your presence from the web.

By
Eric Escobar
December 18, 2013
Episode #105

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How to Remove Personal Information from the Web

The ability to delete yourself from the internet depends on a few things.

Firstly, how famous are you? If you're like me and you don't get invited to Taylor Swift's birthday party, well it's actually not that hard. But the more of an online presence you have, the more difficult it is to disappear. I imagine it would be nearly impossible for Lady Gaga or Beyonce to disappear from the internet (not that they're trying to).

But if you're not a world famous pop star and you're determined to remove yourself from the web altogether, they key is to delete all of your social media accounts. That includes Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, MySpace, Xanga, Reddit, Pinterest, Google+, and anything and everything you've ever signed up for.

If you can't remember all of the things you've signed up for, just search your email inbox for the words "Welcome" and "Verification." These terms will generally create a pretty robust list of things you should cancel.

Next you'll want to get rid of information that has been indexed by Google and other search engines. Just because you deleted your presence, Google will most likely have information from other websites that you can't control.

The easiest way to do this is to contact the site directly and ask them to take down the information. If you're polite and have pretty good reasoning, most websites will comply without much fuss.

Search engines like Google and Bing also have appeal forms where you can ask to have something removed from their search results. I've never had any luck with this, but it wouldn't hurt to give it a try.

These first few steps are pretty easy if all you're looking to do is to get your public self off the internet.

The next part is more difficult. Although you've deleted information that you've willingly released, there are a ton of websites that gather data about you and everyone else who has an online presence. For example just search for yourself on Spokeo.com or Pipl.com. There's probably way more information on those websites than you could have ever imagined.

There are services such as DeleteMe that specialize in removing your information from these sources. But it's far cheaper to do it yourself. Each of the sites that has information about you will liekly have a form that you can fill out to request a takedown of information. All it takes is time, patience, and persistence.

Now, depending on how far off the grid you want to go, the next step will be to start deleting email accounts, stop paying bills online, and to stop using online banking of any sort. This is a pretty drastic step, so make sure you're really committed before you go down that road.

With that, here are your 4 Quick and Dirty Tips from disappearing from the web:

  1. It's best to think twice before posting any information on social media, rather than managing triage after the fact.
  2. Be careful what information you release on the internet. You can never be sure how someone will use it for purposes you didn't intend.
  3. If you really want to escape the web, remove yourself from social media altogether.
  4. If you want to go all the way, delete your email, online bank accounts, and turn off the computer and smartphone.

Hopefully, I've covered the whole spectrum of tools and options for ditching the digital age (without scaring you too much). If there's anything I missed something, I'd love to hear about it. Just shoot me an email at techtalker@quickanddirtytips.com or post it on the Tech Talker Facebook Page at Facebook.com/QDTtechtalker (ironic, right?).

Well, that’s it for today! Be sure to check out all my earlier episodes at techtalker.quickanddirtytips.com

Until next time, I’m the Tech Talker, keeping technology simple!

Betterment LLC is an SEC Registered Investment Advisor. Brokerage services are offered by Betterment Securities, an SEC registered broker-dealer and member FINRA/SIPCInvestments are not FDIC Insured. No Bank Guarantee. May Lose Value. Investing in securities involves risks, and there is always the potential of losing money when you invest in securities. Before investing, consider your investment objectives and Betterment's charges and expenses. Not an offer, solicitation of an offer, or advice to buy or sell securities in jurisdictions where Betterment and Betterment Securities are not registered.

 Gone viral image courtesy of Shutterstock.

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