As our world becomes increasingly digital, the risk of cybercrime rises in tandem. According to the 2022 Annual Data Breach Report by the Identity Theft Resource Center, the number of victims has skyrocketed by almost 41.5% from the previous year. Data brokers, who collect and sell personal information, have grown in number and continue to pose significant security threats. With this escalating situation, the public is seeking effective ways to remove personal information from the internet.
Understanding Personal Information
What constitutes personal information? Here are some key examples:
- Full name, contact information, date of birth, sex, marital status, race
- Property records
- Criminal/court records
- Financial records
- Medical records
- Social Security number
- History of employment
All this information, if fallen into the wrong hands, can lead to identity theft, financial loss, and other forms of cybercrime.
How Your Personal Information Appears Online
Your personal information can find its way online through various channels:
- Publicly available sources
- Data brokers and people search sites, such as Public Record Search, SearchQuarry, or Sync.me
- State and federal public records
- Your social media accounts
- Your accounts on various websites, such as online shopping sites
Steps to Remove Personal Information from the Internet
So, how can you remove your personal information from the internet? Here are some effective strategies:
- Delete obsolete and unused online accounts. Even if inactive, they can still process your info.
- Opt-out from data broker sites and people search sites. These entities potentially collect and even sell your private data.
- Utilize opt-out guides. These can assist you throughout the process.
- Use a data removal service like Incogni. This tool will automatically send opt-out requests on your behalf and will continue searching and sending removal requests as long as you have an active subscription.
- Remove your information from Google Search results. This can be achieved by contacting the website owner or website host and asking them to remove your data. Alternatively, you can head to Google directly and submit a request to have your info removed.
- Delete unused apps from your phone. Apps can be collecting plenty of your information, from your location to your online shopping preferences.
- Optimize the security settings of your digital platforms. This includes social media accounts, Google, the apps on your smartphone, and your browser.
How to Protect Your Personal Information
Once you’ve taken steps to remove your personal information from the internet, the next crucial step is protecting it:
- Be aware of what you share.
- Be cautious of spam mail, phishing, and malware.
- Ensure you have strong passwords (and 2-step verification).
- Use a VPN service.
- Be careful when connecting to public, unsecured networks.
Incogni: Your Partner in Personal Data Protection
Incogni offers a comprehensive service to help subscribers keep their data off the market. With a 1-year subscription at a 50% discount ($6.49/mo), users can monitor the entire process (potential databases found, requests sent, requests completed) on their Incogni dashboard.
Incogni lists data brokers likely to have customers’ information, such as Social Security number, physical address, phone number, or email address, and sends out removal requests to delete personal data. After deleting user information, brokers are still being sent the data removal requests regularly because they tend to collect the person’s information again after some time.
By taking control of your personal information online, you can significantly decrease your risk of becoming a victim of cybercrime. Remember, in our digital world, privacy is not a privilege but a right that we all should exercise and protect.