[GUIDE] How to Remove Your Name from the Internet: 9 Steps

Thanks to the ubiquity of smartphones and the power of Google, Bing and a handful of other search engines, we have constant, almost instantaneous access to virtually every piece of information in the universe.

Most of the time, being able to search online for the answer to almost any question—no matter how obscure—makes our lives easier and more convenient. However, when the subject of an online query happens to be our own personal data, the ability to track down information on the internet suddenly loses a bit of its appeal.

If you’ve ever searched your own name online, you already know that data brokers, social media sites and other sources make it incredibly simple for almost anyone to find out your home address, phone number, email address, employment history, voting record and a variety of other intimate information. In these cases, you may be wondering how to remove your name from the Internet.

In the wrong hands, this data could result in you becoming a victim of hacking, identity theft, virtual or physical stalking or harassment. In some cases, cybercriminals extend their nets to cause harm to business and personal associates they discover in your social media circles and online contacts.

How to Remove Your Name from the Internet

Though it’s almost impossible to completely disappear from search engine results, there are some things you can do to minimize your exposure and avoid becoming the target of malicious actors online. The nine steps below will make your information more difficult to find and use against you.

Step 1 – Shore up the privacy settings on social media accounts—or delete them altogether

Social media profiles tend to rank near the top of online search results, so locking down your privacy settings can help prevent search engines from finding this information. If you have old or unused social media profiles on obsolete sites like MySpace, Flickr or Google+, you should delete them completely.

You may even want to join the growing ranks of people abandoning still-popular platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram in response to concerns about user privacy and the proliferation of fake news.

Step 2 – Find and remove old personal content, including reviews, blog posts and comments

As the saying goes, the internet never forgets, meaning unless you delete them, content you created months or even decades ago lives on somewhere on the web. Old blog entries, posts on message boards, comments on news articles—they’re all lurking in some dusty corner of the internet, just waiting to be rediscovered by a search engine.

Unfortunately, the only way to erase years of online activity is to manually delete each piece of content, one by one. Start by performing a search for your name and visiting the location of each result to delete the content you want to eliminate from search results.

In some cases, you may have to contact the owner of the website in question to request the removal of your post or comment. This contact information may be located in the “About” section of a website, or you may need to search www.whois.com to determine who currently controls the site. This process can become notoriously difficult, so we recommend keeping a spreadsheet to keep track of progress for link removals/updates and responses.

Step 3 – Opt-out of data brokers and people search sites

Upon performing a test search of your name, you’ll probably find multiple entries from data brokers or people search sites like Intelius, PeekYou, MyLife and Spokeo.

These sites scour the internet to gather as much information as possible about individuals and then aggregate the data into comprehensive reports that can then be sold to marketers, government agencies, individual subscribers, or other data brokers.

These databases can contain sensitive information such as your full name, home address, employer, phone number, email address, partial Social Security number, voting history, marital status, date of birth, and much more.

Virtually all data brokers allow individuals to opt out of having their information collected, stored, sold, and shared, but you’ll need to complete the opt-out process for each of the dozens of data brokers and then wait up to 60 days for your personal information to be removed from their sites.

Even after you’ve opted out, your information will remain with the original sources from which data brokers cull their information—places like state and local government records, social media profiles, and news sites—although it will be more time-consuming for searchers to locate.

Concerned about how much information about you is freely available online? Get your data automatically removed from dozens of people search websites and data brokers, and avoid hate raids, for less than the cost of a Netflix subscription with Removaly.

Step 4 – Enlist assistance from a privacy protection service

If opting out of each data broker and people search site one at a time sounds tedious and time-consuming, you’re right. Fortunately, there are services like Removaly that can complete the process for you. That is what we are here for, to make the process easier.

These privacy protection services have years of experience in identifying both well-known and obscure data brokers and how to complete the opt-out process for each one.

These services can also be highly effective in locating the original sources of your information and requesting its removal. Considering the time it would take for you to tackle this gargantuan task by yourself, signing up for one of these services can be a wise investment.

Step 5 – Privatize online shopping accounts

From grocery delivery to gift shopping, most of us make a sizable percentage of our purchases online. However, a surprising number of these transactions are at least partially public.

For example, unless you deliberately made your Amazon Wish List private, the default setting for these aspirational accounts is public, meaning they will appear in search engine results.

Anytime you make a purchase online, check your account settings to ensure that your e-commerce activity is private. Otherwise, you may be broadcasting your shopping lists for the whole internet to see.

Step 6 – Ax inactive email accounts

Over the last quarter-century, we’ve probably all accumulated at least a handful of email addresses, from the early days of Internet providers like AOL and Juno to more contemporary hosts like Hotmail, Yahoo and Gmail. Unless you’re actively using an email account, deleting it will prevent potential breaches by hackers and exposure in online searches.

After you close obsolete accounts, any messages directed to them will bounce back, prompting their removal from mailing lists and corporate databases and providing one less connection for search engines to find.

Step 7 – Delete inaccurate search results

Even after you’ve deleted old, obsolete or inaccurate content, it may still show up in online searches. If unwanted results are still appearing when you search, you can contact Google to request their removal.

Google’s Remove Unwanted Content tool may be an option if you do not own the search result page and the page or image no longer exists or is substantially different from the current version of the page or image.

Utilizing the Remove Content Tool in Google

To use the Remove Unwanted Content tool:

  • You must be logged into Google for the request to be processed.
  • Go to the Remove Outdated Content page.
  • Enter the URL of the page or image in the required format and click Submit.
  • If the page or image still exists at the URL you enter, you will need to provide additional information.
  • If your submission is accepted, your request will be added to the history at the bottom of the page.
  • Check the status of your request periodically. If your request is denied, Google will provide a link explaining why your submission was rejected.

Step 8 – Create new content to help camouflage private data

If you are unsuccessful at removing the information that shows up in your search results, your next course of action is to bury it with new, highly-ranked content that will relegate the links you want to hide to the second or third pages of the results (and thus less likely to be discovered by potential employers, family, friends, and even some bad actors).

High-quality, relevant content about you will rise to the top of your search results—content like new social media accounts, a personal website or blog or even press releases posted to free sites like EIN Presswire. Focus your efforts on websites with high Domain Authority, which achieve the highest Google rankings and will most effectively obscure the unwanted content.

Step 9 – Get help from Google to address serious breaches

If your personal safety or financial data are truly at risk, Google will typically work with you to get the content removed, provided you can furnish proof of the actual or potential damages.

If your Social Security number or bank account information have been published online, you can submit a legal request to Google to have it taken down. This option will not work for information that is simply negative or inconvenient, so save this option for dire circumstances only.

If you become the victim of identity theft or financial fraud, be sure to report it immediately to the Federal Trade Commission and the Internet Crime Complaint Center. You should also contact the three main credit reporting agencies (Equifax, Experian and TransUnion) to have your credit report frozen.

Final Thoughts on How To Remove Your Name from the Internet

Though it’s not possible to completely erase yourself from search engine results, you do have a significant amount of control over what information appears in searches and how easily it can be located. The nine tips described above will go a long way in making your personal information difficult to access, and you can help prevent future exposure by being judicious about what and where you share content online.

A good rule of thumb for online activity is to act as if whatever you’re posting, sharing or buying could become public at some point, and wherever possible, elevate your privacy settings to minimize the chances of it actually happening.

Concerned about how much information about you is freely available online? Get your data automatically removed from dozens of people search websites and data brokers, and avoid hate raids, for less than the cost of a Netflix subscription with Removaly.

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