The internet and social media wield enormous power. So much so that some people hark back to pre-digital days and would like to erase all traces of their existence and identity from the World Wide Web. If this sounds like you, read on for a 'how to guide', on making yourself disappear from the internet.
- Close all your social media accounts. That's Facebook, Twitter, Linked in, Google+. Anything that you remember joining that allows you to link with others and be found easily has to go.
- Search yourself online and deactivate any accounts you've forgotten about. There are bound to be things that looked useful at the time but you haven't visited for ages. Blogs, forums, old school networks that you joined in a moment of nostalgia. Delete them all. In some cases you might have forgotten passwords or log ins, there's bound to be an option to retrieve them. Just follow the steps indicated on the sites concerned.
- If you can't delete, falsify. There may be some sites that won't let you delete the account, so you'll have to get creative. Change your name, change the personal details, create a whole new 'imaginary you' that won't lead a searcher back to the real you.
- Unsubscribe from any and all mailing lists. This is kind of an all or nothing process, so all those special offers or promotions you signed up for have to go. Check through all your old emails for anything that's clearly come from a list and go to the unsubscribe option. Also request your removal from all online telephone directories and make sure your number is unlisted
- Delete search engine results about you where you can. In some cases you'll have the option to request removal. Google even has a URL tool to help you with this.
- Contact webmasters and ask them to remove you, when you don't have the option to do it yourself. Don't expect this to be easy, some webmasters may argue that some of this information is of public interest and be reluctant to remove it.
- It's time for the Data Clearinghouses. These are the companies who track your online activity and compile lists that they sell on to advertisers and other interested parties. If individual webmasters are reluctant to remove you, you can be quite certain that the clearinghouses will be even less willing. Expect to make a lot of phone calls, fill out loads of paperwork and generally have to make a nuisance of yourself to succeed with this part of the process. If you don't have the time or the energy there are companies you can pay to do it for you, you'll find them...Err online!
- At the end you'll have to delete your email accounts since you're going to need them before that to deactivate some other accounts.
And that's it, you're gone!
Apart from the fact that you'll need to check back regularly on the net to make sure you've stayed gone. If you really don't want to have an online identity, and you never do anything to get yourself noticed, then as an individual you can remove yourself from the internet, though it will take a fair amount of time and trouble. If you run a business, anything from a global concern right down to a corner shop then you can pretty much forget being able to eliminate your online identity. Even if you don't post any information about your business, others probably will and the time is coming when online invisibility for a business will in itself appear so unusual as to be noteworthy. At Local Fame we think it's much better to manage your online identity and maintain a great reputation, than try to disappear. That way the internet can work for you. When you're looking for advice on how to do that, just drop us a line. We'd love to hear from you.