Personal Data: How to delete yourself from the internet

Personal Data
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Customers have a right to manage the information flow because there is so much personal data available online. By choosing not to participate in specific data-collection websites or hiring removal firms to perform the cleaning on their behalf, some people are taking matters into their own hands.

Whether or whether you choose to do this will primarily rely on how serious your privacy issues are, how much money you are willing to spend on privacy protection, and how much time and effort you are willing to put forth.

To what extent does it bother you that people can find your phone number online and that you are married? stated Stephen B. Wicker, a Cornell University electrical and computer engineering professor.

What you should know about restricting or eliminating your personal information from the internet is as follows:

Identity theft and your online trail

The data in question is gathered by numerous internet businesses known as data brokers, who compile customers’ personal data and frequently sell it to other businesses. Names, mailing addresses, birthdays, relatives’ names, social media accounts, property values, jobs, and other bits of information that might be used for different types of fraud are some examples of this data.

Identity theft can be compared to mosaic tiles. Adam K. Levin, consumer affairs advocate and former director of the New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs who co-hosts a cybersecurity podcast stated that the more tiles you have, the more accurate the imitation can be.

While some people may not be as concerned as others about public access to their personal information, there are good reasons for some people to be more sensitive than others. According to NYU Tandon School of Engineering associate professor Damon McCoy, this includes persons who have been the target of harassment or stalking or who are concerned about it, as well as those who work in law enforcement or in prominent business positions.

Self-help tools to remove personal information

There are techniques to restrict the amount of personal data that is available online for individuals who choose to do so. Many people search websites that have protocols to allow consumers to request removal from their database.

Furthermore, Google recently launched a new tool called “Results about you” that lets users ask for search results containing their home address, phone number, or email address to be removed. While eliminating these results doesn’t remove a person’s contact information from the web, it’s a step Alphabet has taken to prevent the misuse of personal information.

Asking Google to delete specific links to external content that you discovered through a Google search is another option. First, try to get in touch with the website owner and request that the content be taken down. Should that not work, Google states that it has the right to delete any personal data “that creates significant risks of financial fraud, identity theft, or other specific harms.” This could include non-consensual personal photographs.

Downsides to the DIY data management approach

The drawback of the do-it-yourself method is that it necessitates constant upkeep and a real-time commitment to guarantee that data doesn’t resurface. Rahul Telang, a Carnegie Mellon University information systems professor, stated, “You can do it yourself, it’s just a very time-consuming exercise because you have to go to individual websites and follow the rules about how to remove yourself from the websites.”

It’s not a one-and-done task, though, as you might need to repeat the procedure because the information can occasionally return. Mike Kiser, head of strategy and standards at identity security provider SailPoint, said in an email that it’s similar to “unsubscribing” to an email list.

While it is possible to click “unsubscribe, Kiser pointed out that it is quite impossible to confirm that the data has actually been erased from their end and that they haven’t already resold it to another party, making the deletion of sensitive information much more difficult.

Paying for a subscription to scrub websites

Some people would rather pay for a service that can delete their personal information from many websites and provide them with updates on its progress, as they find the time and effort required to do it yourself to be too great. A few of these services exist, such as DeleteMe, Kanary, and OneRep from Abine Inc.

According to Kiser, prices might vary, typically ranging from $7 to $25 per month, depending on the provider and if a family or individual plan is selected. There’s frequently annual price available as well.

For example, DeleteMe offers a $129 annual option for a single person. Kanary provides a free version of its service as well as a paid version that protects an individual and two loved ones for $105 a year for a single person and $150 for a family plan. A package from OneRep costs $180 annually for six users and $99.96 annually for a single user.

Measuring the efficacy of these services can be challenging, in part because to the abundance of publicly available personal data. Within its website’s frequently asked questions area, Kanary states that over 70% of users have had their removals successfully completed. OneRep, on the other hand, asserts that it removed 5 million records in 2021. According to the DeleteMe website, during the course of a two-year subscription, 2,389 pieces of personal information are typically found.

Prior to committing to a paid service, carefully consider the options of several providers, taking into account factors like cost, included features, and the frequency of consumer updates. Another option is to check if a free trial is offered. In addition, Levin suggested that if you use a credit monitoring service, you might want to find out whether there is a data erasure tool available.

Since some companies provide this as a reward to high-level employees, you might also check to see if your firm is paying for the service, McCoy suggested.

U.S. privacy laws still weaker than in Europe

It is very difficult to get rid of every bit of information associated with your name that is found online. Public records are among the information categories that are accessible to the general public and may be searched online, for example. Furthermore, some websites do not provide an opt-out process, particularly those housed outside of the United States. Furthermore, according to Wicker, the amount of data that can be deleted is far less in the United States than it is in Europe, where privacy rules are more stringent.

The truth is that once you step outside, you never really go back in. Information can be removed, but that doesn’t mean it can’t still exist, according to Levin. For this reason, he advises customers to conduct regular privacy audits using Google and/or to engage with a paid service that keeps an eye on these issues. You need to stay vigilant, he advised.

Read more at News Intercept:

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