Take some time to look through what’s visible in your online presence. Start by assuming you know just one piece of information (your name or your location or a place you were, etc.) – what can you find? Assume you know two. What then? Get a tech-savvy friend to try and track you down and see what they find. Figure out where you’re vulnerable and what you can shore up. There are a whole host of information scrapers out there – remove your info from as many as possible. Remember, even if you’re not concerned about extensive doxxing, your visibility might be a vector that can open the door to friends and comrades being on the line.
- Start by taking stock of all the ways your information has been cataloged. Addresses, phone numbers, email addresses, social media profiles – all of these are bundled into sites that sell access to the information whether through subscriptions or through bulk re-selling to corporations hoping to use it for financial gain. No list of these bulk data storing companies can be complete, as more are constantly popping up and profiles may sometimes reappear even after opting out when new information is available online.
- If you don’t have time to sort through the various sites and data collections, DeleteMe and Privacy Duck are both options that will do the slow work of submitting opt-out requests for you. They’re not cheap but can be the best option for some needs. Privacy Duck does have discounts for at-risk individuals (still expense even after, though).
- These info removal services will not cover all bases. There are some websites without opt-out options and some sites that are not supported by the companies. It’s a good idea to do a pass through major sites and on search engines yourself after listings have had time to disappear. That way you can find what sites need manual takedowns.
- DeleteMe style services can also leave digital ghosts. Some of these are from name changes, legal and otherwise, and pseudonyms. There are also times when data aggregating sites aren’t sure that you in one place you lived is the same as you in another place so they make two entries. Data removal services will often only catch the most obvious one and leave the other. You are the most likely person to recognize that multiple entries need to come down.
- If you do opt for one of these services, remain vigilant. Introduce regular checkups on your digital data to your routine. Technology is a constant back and forth between threats and vulnerabilities on one side and the tools to handle them on the other. This doesn’t have to be overwhelming or scary – make space for it the same way you would make space to change the oil in a car. It’s just maintenance.
- If you decide to do removal manually, there are a lot of sites to work through. Here are some guides and tools to help you as you work through them.
- Crash override has a solid set of links and a decent interactive tool to walk you through cleaning up your overall digital security: http://www.crashoverridenetwork.com/preventingdoxing.html
- A quick how-to with a link to the opt-out sections of large databases https://yoursosteam.wordpress.com/2015/08/30/remove-your-mailing-address-from-data-broker-sites/
- https://wiki.onerep.com/ The key part of this site is the extensive amount of guides on different data brokers. Some of them make it hard to navigate so if you’re having trouble, check this site.
- For a huge list of brokers to sort through, check out https://www.privacyrights.org/online-information-brokers-list Go through a couple a day, sort out where you can’t pull your info off of from where you can and track where it’s still out there.
- https://pipl.com/ doesn’t have an opt-out option for your full scraped profile but once you’ve gotten the associated sites taken down, you can request removal of certain links by following this page’s instructions https://pipl.com/corp/reporting-links/
- Voter registration – if you have it, know that it puts your information in the public domain. Different states handle how public this is differently but most are fairly navigable to connect your name to whatever address you’re registered at. There may be states with different processes, but in our experience the only way to keep that information out of the public domain without a court order is to unregister. There’s a whole subset of voter registration data scrapers and some of them resist removing information while it’s still publicly posted by the state.
- Mugshots on those big mugshot aggregator sites are mostly unremovable at this point. There are some pending court cases disputing what public domain is in this case and whether putting a mugshot up with a name forever online is something that can be done. For now, there is nothing compelling mugshot sites to give you an opt out. Sorry.
- Some pseudonyms may be extremely difficult/almost impossible to remove from info scrapers – ones that require a proof of ID to take down are difficult to appease when no one has ever had that name on a legal document. At this point, it’s unclear if DeleteMe type of sites are able to successfully remove these entries.
Additional available information:
- We’ve provided resources and recommendations on getting information out of some prominent social media sites in our page on getting off the cloud as well as in the section on compromised accounts.
- Delete old accounts on unused webpages and online services. These are a vulnerability. Accounts on less secure services are at a higher risk of having login and other information leaked in data breaches and there may be information that you didn’t realize was a liability still attached. Also, no one wants their old livejournal posts getting blasted on fascist social media.
- Lookup current and past usernames to remember where you might have made accounts with them here: https://namechk.com/
- If you’re having trouble figuring out how to delete your account on a given site, check here: http://backgroundchecks.org/justdeleteme/# This site links directly to the deletion options for a sizeable number of common sites to have accounts on.
- Newspaper articles, obituaries, things like that are pretty much up there for good. If they’re up at a website that’s on the team, ask for whatever modifications or removal you need to feel comfortable. Mostly though, you’re going to need to figure out how to minimize the risks associated with that information being online.
- Whether from a scraper, personal account or otherwise, echoes of pages may still show up in search results after the page itself has gone. Search engines don’t immediately update their results and will often show cached information in the site blurb even after it has been taken down.
- To remove lingering sites on Google, you will need a Google account. Then, simply go to this site https://www.google.com/webmasters/tools/removals to request inactive sites or pages be removed.