How to Remove Personal Information from the Internet
Updated · Apr 06, 2022
Our digital lives have grown exponentially over the past decade. From MySpace profiles to an intricate network of information about your life, social media and the World Wide Web at large know more about you than ever.
In this article, we’ll show you exactly how to remove personal information from the internet.
Contrary to popular belief, online data is not eternal. You can scrub personal details from social media, data brokers, and even Google itself.
Read on to learn what steps you have to take:
How do I remove myself from the internet?
Start by finding the places where your information appears:
- Google yourself. This is the first thing anyone would do to learn about you or your business. What comes out? Your social media profiles, any publications you’ve made, news, or blogs about you? Take note, as you might be able to remove that personal information from Google later on.
- People search engines. These data engines help others check your background. Luckily, it’s quite easy to remove your listing if you know it exists. Start by going to the big eight—Intelius, Truthfinder, Instant Checkmate, PeopleFinders, US Search, Spokeo, Pipl, ZoomInfo. We’ll talk about getting your data deleted from each.
- Social media. Go through your social media profiles, especially the “About Me” section. It’s a treasure trove of information for data brokers and snoopers of any kind. Remove any details that you don’t want to share, taking special care to delete any addresses or locations.
In the following sections, we’ll cover how to ungoogle yourself, how to delete social media, and how to get background search engines to stop showing your listing.
But first, let’s talk about one silent yet very important player in this game:
What Are Data Brokers?
In the information era, data is a commodity. Data brokers are the companies that make money off your personal details.
Is this your first time stumbling upon the term?
You’re not alone.
A lot of users aren’t even aware data brokers exist until they try to delete their online presence.
In short, these companies collect, organize, and sell valuable personal data. They crawl the internet looking for public and private sources, aggregating the information into dossiers, and offering it to the highest bidder.
Data brokers make it harder to remove online information, especially in the US, where they’re very loosely regulated. Even worse, their clients include private entities and government agencies alike.
While the Privacy Act limits how much information federal agencies can hold on American citizens, data brokers have more freedom to maintain and aggregate personal data, including your Social Security number from credit reporting agencies.
So, if you’re wondering how to delete yourself from the internet, you should also ask, “How do I avoid data brokers?”
Breaking Up With Information Brokers
Removing information from the internet should always include data brokers. Since they’re in the business of selling people’s info, these are often the companies that will have the most on you—and have it best organized.
Fortunately, you can opt out of data collection and have your records wiped.
Here is how to do that:
- Cut access to your information. Before you remove yourself from data collection sites, take preventive measures to make sure you won’t end up back there again. Say “no” whenever someone asks for your personal information—on the internet and offline. Lock your social media profiles, too, or better yet, consider wiping them altogether.
- Manually opt-out on every site. Different data suppliers will have different policies, but you can ask each and every one of them to remove online information. There are over 50 different brokers, though going to the main ones (like Acxiom or Oracle) will already help you make great progress.
- Try a content removal service. Don’t have the time or mental energy to go through the opt-out process fifty times over? There are companies that will do it for you, like DeleteMe or PrivacyDuck.
- Hire a reputation management company. Monitoring and actively managing your online presence is key, especially if you’re a business owner. Check out our favorite reputation management companies to repair and improve your public image.
How to Delete Yourself From Social Media?
Your social media profiles are the second major place to search when you’re trying to remove personal information from the internet.
Here is how to remove yourself once and for all:
Find Your Profiles
You can’t just go to the social media gods and say, “Delete me once and for all!” The average user has a profile on eight different platforms. You’ll have to go to each one of these separately.
Start with the most popular social media—Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram are a good place to start. Since you’re asking how to remove your information from the internet, begin with the platforms where you generated the most content.
We all know the damage a single tweet from ten years ago can make.
So think long and hard about the stupid/inappropriate things you might have said and remove them before an employer finds out.
Deleting Yourself from Facebook
You have two options here—either deactivate or delete your account. Deactivation simply means your account will be on hold.
Will that delete me from the internet?
Yes, your deactivated account is as good as deleted in Google’s eyes. You can, however, recover it at any time.
Here are the steps to deactivate your Facebook profile:
- Go to Settings > General
- Press “Manage your account”
- Click “Deactivate your account” and confirm
If this isn’t enough, here is how to delete yourself completely from Facebook:
- Go to Facebook’s help page on deleting your account
- Choose “Download Info” to get an archive of your pictures and posts
- Click “Delete Account” to remove your Facebook presence for good
This will take off your entire profile and you won’t be able to recover it. If you delete Facebook, your Messenger account goes too. This means you won’t be able to talk to your Facebook friends.
How to delete yourself from Facebook only?
If you deactivate your profile, you can still use Messenger without having a searchable Facebook account.
Twitter doesn’t let you delete your profile immediately. Instead, you’re turning it off first with the options to:
- Come back to your profile in the future
- Have Twitter delete it after a certain period of time
This is how you delete Twitter to reduce your personal information in searches:
- Go to Settings and Privacy
- Press Account > Deactivate
- Enter your password and click “Deactivate Account”
- If you don’t log back in 30 days, Twitter will automatically remove your profile
Get Rid of Instagram
Just like Facebook, Instagram has both deactivation and deletion options. The catch? You can’t do either of these on mobile.
But before we get to the more drastic measures, do you have a private account? Switching your Instagram to private is one of the simplest ways to reduce publicly available information on you, though it won’t erase your name from the internet.
To deactivate your profile on desktop:
- Sign in to your account on the Instagram website
- Click “Edit Profile”
- Select “Temporarily disable my account” at the bottom of the page
- Choose the reason why you’re disabling it
- Enter your Instagram password to confirm
- Click “Temporarily disable account” once again
Here are the steps to permanently delete your Instagram account (again, on desktop):
- Log into your account
- Go to the Instagram help page
- Choose the reason for deletion from the drop-down menu
- Re-enter your Instagram password
- Select “Permanently delete my account”
Before deleting your profile, consider downloading your Instagram data. Go to the download request page and enter your account details. It can take up to 48 hours to receive your files, so be patient.
Still wondering how to erase yourself from the internet completely?
The quest for de-digitalization continues.
How to Delete Your Personal Information From People Finder Sites?
Removing personal info from Google and social media is just one step of the process of wiping data off the internet. This is how to erase your info from popular people finder sites:
Here is how to erase your digital footprint from Intelius:
- Visit their opt-out page
- Answer whether you’re an Intelius customer or not
- Enter your name, state, and email address
You will receive a confirmation email once the deletion is complete.
- Go to their opt-out page and find your listing
- Select “Remove This Record”
- Enter your email address and confirm you’re not a robot
- Click the verification link sent to your email
Once you confirm your identity by email, the information will be wiped.
You’ll have to verify yourself by email and the process is complete.
- Search for your name and find your listing
- Click “View Details” > “Instant Report”
- Copy the Instant Report page link
- Next, visit the PeopleFinders opt-out page
- Enter the URL and your email address and confirm you’re not a robot
- Click “Send Request”
You will receive a verification link to finish up the deletion.
Then enter your name, state, and email and click “Remove This Record.”
You will receive an email to confirm the wipe.
How to remove myself from the internet by deleting my Spokeo listing?
Start by finding your profile and copying the URL of your listing. Then provide it along with your email address on the opt-out page.
Follow the confirmation link and you’re done.
Go to Pipl's record removal request page and enter your information. Add a small message and click Submit.
Though most removals go through without additional verification, keep an eye on your email for the next few days. Their team might reach out to you personally.
Finally, Zoominfo’s profile removal process is also refreshingly simple.
Just go to the opt-out page, enter your work email, and find the confirmation in your inbox. Copy the code they sent into the page and confirm the data removal.
Seven More Ways to Delete Yourself From the Internet
Asking how to delete public information on the internet is tricky. No matter how careful you are, there still might be tidbits of data about you floating around.
Here are seven more strategies that answer the question, “How to remove personal information from the internet for free?”
- Go to Google’s Activity Controls. You can control the information this platform collects and select an auto-delete option. It is turned off by default, but you can have your data wiped as frequently as every three months.
- Ask for Google public record removal. If you’re in the EU, you can ask the company to remove links with information about you. It balances personal and community benefits here, so this might not work for scam-busting articles, for instance. Still, it’s very helpful if you’re facing online harassment or bullying.
- Go through your old profiles. Decade-old tweets and Tumblr posts might damage your public image if dug out. Go through your old profiles and take care of any potentially offensive or simply unprofessional content.
- Use the old content removal tool. Once you’ve removed old and irrelevant information, you can ask Google to stop sharing the link through their proprietary tool.
- Turn off cookies in your browser. Most browsers accept cookies by default, but you can opt-out of the option fairly easily. Here’s how to do it in Chrome. You can also choose a privacy-first browser like DuckDuckGo.
- Perform an app clean-up. Internet scrubbing goes beyond your desktop computer. For any app you download, you accept the Terms & Conditions, often consenting to personal data collection you might not expect. Go through your phone to delete apps and begin restricting access to your information through your phone’s controls.
- Wipe your file-sharing accounts. Your photos might be going directly to Google Photos without you even realizing it. Go through the info these platforms have and remove any sensitive content.
There isn’t a one-stop solution on how to delete yourself from the internet. The closest thing to that are services like DeleteMe and PrivacyDuck. Even without those, there are still plenty of steps you can take to ensure your privacy.
We provided some actionable steps on how to remove personal information from the internet.
Prevention is always better than after-the-fact strategies. So once you have your online anonymity in check, make sure you’re mindful of the privacy consent you give and the information you share both on and offline.