How To Delete Your Digital Footprint

Your digital footprint can tell a pretty detailed story about you, particularly when it comes to what you do online, what your interests are, and the things you like to buy. Here is a step-by-step guide on how to delete your digital footprint.

What Is a Digital Footprint?

The more you use the internet, social networks, and online services, the more information you leave behind. This kind of data is regularly used by advertisers to build profiles about you so that they can serve you targeted ads.

The likelihood of you clicking on an advert is greatly increased when those you see are for products you want to buy. However, your online footprint can also be seen by others, including potential employers who you want to impress.

In this article, we’ll look at how to erase your digital footprint so that the data you’ve left behind so far can be greatly reduced. We’ll also look at how you can minimize your digital footprint going forward.

How To Delete Digital Footprint

Before we get into how to delete your digital footprint, it’s important to look at exactly what can be removed. Although it’s possible to reduce what kind of information on you is available, it’s impossible to completely erase all of it. Sadly, some of your data will have already been recorded by third parties and you’ll have no control over it now. It should also be noted that unless you stop using the internet altogether, you will always be leaving more behind.

That’s just unavoidable, since everything you do online leaves a trace of some kind. However, it is possible to delete a lot of the information you’ve built up to date. Here are five ways to start.

1. Delete old and unused accounts

The first step toward reducing your online footprint is to delete all your old and unused accounts, particularly those embarrassing MySpace and Tumblr pages. Getting rid of these can prevent others from seeing old social media posts you don’t want to be seen anymore, and the fewer accounts you have, the less data there is to find on you.

It’s also important to remove old forum, shopping, online storage, and email accounts — and to follow email security best practices. Remember, you’re less likely to suffer a data breach or leak if you have fewer online accounts that can be targeted.

If, for whatever reason, you are unable to delete an old account, change the information — name, address, phone number, and other personal information — to something random so that it is no longer linked to you when someone searches your name.

2. Make social media accounts private

It’s not easy to remove yourself from social media entirely these days since many of us use it to keep in touch with friends. However, you can make it so that others can’t see everything you post. Make your Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and other social media profiles private so that only those you’re friends with (and not potential employers) can see what you post.

3. Tell data collectors to forget you

Although this isn’t a simple step, it is possible to ask data collection sites — also known as “data brokers” — to remove the information they have about you, and it can be hugely beneficial to reducing your online footprint. You can do this manually by searching your own name to find out which sites return information, then following the process each one has for removing your records. However, this can be time-consuming and complicated.

To make things simpler, there are third-party services that will automatically take care of things for you. DeleteMe, which charges $129 a year, is one of them. The great thing about services like this is that they’re not just a one-time thing; so long as you maintain an active subscription, they’ll keep working to ensure your information is removed from data collection platforms.

4. Get Google results removed

Deleting parts of your data footprint can be incredibly difficult, so the next best thing is making them a lot more difficult to find by removing them from Google. Simply file a legal request to get the results removed. It can take a while, and Google won’t always approve these requests, but if you’re successful it can be incredibly effective. Other search engines offer this service, too.

5. Hide your browsing habits

If you want to keep your data footprint as small as possible going forward, you can use services that help hide your browsing habits from websites, trackers, and sometimes even your internet provider. A good VPN is a great option, while taking advantage of services like Private Relay and Hide My Email on your Apple devices can also work wonders.

Check If Your Data Has Been Compromised With Privacy Guard

Now you know how to erase your digital footprint, let’s look at what you can do to ensure that if your information ever falls into the wrong hands, you’ll know about it right away.

Privacy Guard, a feature built into Clean Email, can be used to find out if your email address has ever been involved in email data breach and other security incidents.

Privacy Guard feature in Clean EmailPrivacy Guard feature in Clean Email

Privacy Guard feature is free for all users. It not only tells you when your data has leaked (learn more about how to check if you have been pwned), but it helps you take back control by walking you through the steps you need to take, such as changing your passwords and enabling two-factor authentication, to protect yourself.

Beside a hacked email checker, Clean Email also offers a great Unsubscriber feature, which can help you unsubscribe from newsletters, promotions, and other email spam quickly and easily.

Unsubscribe from emails with Clean EmailUnsubscribe from emails with Clean Email

How To Delete Digital Footprint - FAQs

Can you entirely erase your digital footprint?

Unfortunately, it’s not possible to delete your digital footprint entirely. There will always be some information that you cannot erase — like that held by third parties and hidden from you. But you can delete a lot of this data by following the tips in this guide.

How can I remove my name on Google search?

Although it’s not easy to get yourself completely removed from Google searches, you can file a legal request to have certain search results wiped. It can take a while and Google won’t always comply, but if you’re successful, it can be incredibly effective.

Who can see your digital footprint?

Parts of your online footprint may be stored by advertisers and other third parties and not easily available to the average person. However, much of what you do online — particularly when it comes to social media — can be seen by almost anyone, including potential employers, unless you protect your profiles by making them private.

How do you delete footprints?

You can erase large parts of your online footprint by deleting old accounts, limiting what you share online, asking data collectors to wipe your records, and more. Find out more in our guide to erasing your digital footprint.

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