Clean up your online presence and protect your privacy in 7 steps

Have you ever Googled your name? This may sound strange, but it's actually a great way to discover a tiny part of what the web knows about us. And, importantly, it's the only way we know whether we should ask Google to remove relevant personal information that shouldn't be shared publicly.

In April 2022, Google added new options to remove your personally identifiable information from its search engine, including government ID numbers or photos, banking details, contacts, personal information, and specific data such as medical records. Naturally, Google will not delete personal data contained in news articles or public record databases.

This functionality is in addition to the already existing option to request the deletion of search content that could be used for any harm, such as non-consensual pornographic content, images of minors or copyright violations.

So how can you try to erase your digital presence?

Once something is online, there is no absolute way to make it disappear. But there are a few steps you can take to clean up your online presence:

  1. Google your name . First of all, you need to know as much as the internet knows about you. Search for your name, check the results on the first five pages, and combine the name search with your phone number or home address to see what comes up.
  2. Check the privacy settings of the services you use . Some platforms, like Facebook or Twitter, have an option in their privacy settings that allows you to protect your content and contacts so that they don't appear on search engines.
  3. Contact the website owner . If you wish to remove a specific mention on another website, be sure to request it from the site owner. Most websites provide contact details in the “Contact Us” section.
  4. Remove what is not necessary . Many of us share too much! If you're concerned about what the world knows about you — and you're right to be — start by deleting old Facebook posts, tweets, photos from when you were 17, or anything else. And if you know that privacy is important to you, it is just as important to your friends and family, so delete any photos where they appear with you.
  5. Ask Google and Bing to delete your personal information . After doing a little self-cleaning, use the new tool made available by Google to remove personal information from its search results. So far, Bing only allows removal of non-consensual images, broken links, and outdated content.
  6. Think before you share . Now that you've gone through all these challenges, it's time to plan for the future. Your virtual life continues; maybe you always want to be on Instagram, LinkedIn or any other social media platform and that's fine. But go ahead, review your privacy preferences, choose wisely who can see your posts, and avoid sharing unnecessary content that you might regret later.
  7. Use a VPN . This extra layer of protection will help ensure your connection is encrypted and your location is hidden. Above all, this will prevent hackers from getting their noses into your personal information.

Does all this mean you have full control of your data?

There is no simple answer. Most likely not.

But it also depends on the type of user you are. If you're concerned about your privacy and your social media presence is limited, it's likely you can remove most of your digital footprint.

On the contrary, if your data is more or less everywhere, the above goal is very unlikely. Your friends have probably posted photos of you on their news feeds, and you've lost count of the number of times you've used your email address and phone number to log into various websites and apps, not to mention any data about your online activity that these services sell to third parties – with your consent.

But don't be discouraged. Chances are you still have time to limit what people or companies can check about you. This is extremely important, not only for respect for privacy in general, but also to avoid harm that could result from the exposure of your religious, political or personal beliefs in public space.

Source : WeLiveSecurity