Living in the virtual world has become a defining feature of many from today’s generation. Every single day, billions of people connect to the internet as if it’s a public space where everybody has a presence and where everyone is in a way connected. We now live in the “digital age”, the world where we spend most of our time online.
But while having a strong online presence may indeed be beneficial if you are into the business of branding and marketing, both of which are pivotal in any enterprise, alongside this perk is a setback that compromises privacy.
Not only does providing your personal information detrimental to the concept of anonymity in this context, but you also feed many online entities of your valuable data that significantly profit them. If the internet is a vast ocean, we are the fishes in it as visualized through a see-through glass by online businesses whose business it is data exchange, as labeled by our own unique metadata.
Although the internet as a platform for many was never out of controversy since its eventual commercialization, the issue with it involving people’s lives has become more pronounced the more it develops to its later advanced stages.
Just as when people thought that, through their constant interaction with a computer and the internet in general over extended periods, they already know everything they need to know about going online, it only merely scratches the surface akin to the visible part of any large chunk iceberg. Many things happen underneath it and it all boils down mostly to certain specific agendas.
For instance, the year 2018 alone was a scandalous time for social media giant Facebook when it came under flak resulting from its active role in handing out massive user information to a UK-based consulting firm and analytics company, Cambridge Analytica, aimed for political reasons. According to a report, as much as 50 million unique Facebook users were handed over to the company to be used for the Trump campaign back in 2016’s presidential election.
While being a target of a political agenda may not be much of an issue for some people who are not too privy to how it all works, that only makes one of the few problems that making a willful online presence imposes on unwitting persons.
Perhaps the major problem in the overall picture of the internet is that our personal data are not really secured as many of these allegedly “trustworthy” entities online promised to protect us from prying eyes. They are almost literally floating around on the web, waiting to be grabbed by any entity for its personal gains.
It cannot be helped therefore that some would choose to break free from this trend, even if it meant going “nuclear” on themselves online. After all, when your online information is no longer there, what is there to be used involving yourself, right?
However, in as much as the aftermath of a literal nuclear explosion is not without its debris, metaphorically hitting the nuclear button as targeted toward your online profile does not necessarily produce immaculate results. Yet, doing so will significantly minimize the amount of personal details that will be left dangling.
Delete all your online accounts which use real information
It is hard to become anonymous when you are trying to become factual on the internet. For instance, using a fake address will make it hard for you to do anything commercially online, or using a fake name can make your applications easily declined. It is for this reason that we use our true-to-life personal data when making accounts that are truly attributed to ourselves, be it a shopping account, social media account, or any web service.
If you want to regain anonymity on the internet, your first target should be the deletion of these fact-based profiles which you had probably used at some point.
Opt-out from data collection sites
We may be hard-pressed to think that only big companies profit from the data trade that is happening on the internet, but there are also smaller ones whose line of business is indeed in the idea of selling existing information to interested parties online, aptly called “Data Brokers.” Typically, these data brokers include brands like PeopleFinder, WhitePages, and Spokeo.
Deleting your presence from all of these platforms is oftentimes a painfully inconvenient process which requires you to directly send out paperwork by fax. However, there are also entities who could help smoothen out the hassle for you, such as DeleteMe and Abine whose services you could avail for a fee.
Manually remove your personal details from websites
Having an extensive presence online is both a major boon and a major pain-in-the-ass, especially if you came up with the decision to reduce your presence. While this task is easy enough to do on platforms you are recently frequented in but would no longer like to partake, the problem significantly gets problematic the further you go back in the timeline. Your memory could be missing out on certain platforms you may have had a presence from.
Ask Google to remove your personal information from websites
With constant interaction with the internet, you had probably come across platforms which might have piqued your interest that compelled you to make a post. Whether good or bad, the deletion of such post oftentimes is a privilege given only to the webmaster.
In the random chance that you are keen on having a certain post or content be deleted from a supposedly private platform but which the webmaster would not concede to, never hesitate to ask Google for a legal request of its removal.
Ask Google to update its servers
Having been employed by a corporate entity with a strong reflection on the internet through its website, you have probably been one of the faces of such company on a certain web page. However, this could be a case many years ago and is essentially a picture without you supposedly in it.
If your own query of your name on Google still brings out this page, despite it having been updated, it might likely imply that Google’s own servers are the ones not updated for it. Aware of this common problem, Google has a so-called “URL removal tool” which you could use to have the said webpage permanently removed by getting the caches which hold its info get up-to-date.
Delete all your email accounts
Going “full nuclear” on your online presence is not just about profiles that are visible to the public eyes, it also pertains to accounts that may only have private use, such as your email addresses. In fact, one of the major hallmarks which speak that your account is already compromised is when your email address started receiving spam emails that in no way should be relevant to you.
Deleting your email addresses, however, substantially varies in difficulty depending on the provider you are using. Some even still linger in the random chance that you may reconsider using them again.
In the end…
Removing your presence from the internet is procedural and not something you could hope to accomplish in a single day. If you are thinking of embracing anonymity again online, do the procedure on the day when you are totally free from the obligations of life. Moreover, set realistic expectations that not everything from the internet could be removed with your blueprint in it. Doing so, you significantly save yourself from unwanted stress you might likely encounter in the process.
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Nice article, Adam, thanks!
This is such an important post. Data privacy is such an important issue nowadays. I have always wondered with so much online presence in so many different portal how will I ever be able to get rid of these account and save myself from online threats. Your post is very helpful and easy to follow.
Thanks for sharing this post. Have a good day.
I’m glad you liked it. Thank you, Sajid!