You can make yourself “disappear” from the World Wide Web. But be forewarned: Most of the following tactics are irreversible. This includes losing any marketing presence you’ve built up over the years that can bring you business, and it can also result in being unable to restart an eliminated account with the same name or e-mail address.
So before you begin the process of erasing yourself, ask why you wish to disappear in the first place. Are you merely a private person and don’t want your personal information where the whole world can see? Or do you feel threatened in some way (e.g., cyberstalking)?
Re-evaluate your reasons before proceeding. After all, you can create multiple e-mail accounts, for instance, in which one is strictly for business and one is strictly for family. And when registering on any new social media sites or forum boards, you can use a pseudonym. Nevertheless, here are tips on removing your cyber existence.
#1. Delete accounts. Systematically go through every account and delete. To nab every account you’ve ever created, since it’s possible you may not remember some, go through this list:
- eBay, Amazon, Craigslist
- Support forums (medical, parenting, pet ownership, business, etc.)
- Gaming sites
- Content sites you’ve written for
- Freelance job sites
- The local online newspaper where you’re registered to post comments to articles
#2. Facebook. Go to Account Settings—Security—Deactivate account. This removes you from visibility, but the account remains just in case you change your mind. To eradicate the account altogether, go to Delete My Account and hit the blue button.
#3. Twitter. Go to Account Settings—Deactivate my account—Okay, fine, deactivate account. “Deactivate” means delete in this case, but you have a 30 day grace period to change your mind.
#4. LinkedIn. Go to Privacy & Settings—Account—Close your account.
#5. Google+. To remove only your public information, click your name/e-mail address (upper right corner). Go to Account Management—Delete profile and remove related Google+ features—Delete Google+ content.
To remove the entire Google+ account, repeat the above, then hit Delete your entire Google profile. You’ll still be able to use, for instance, your e-mail (gmail), but to eradicate every molecule of Google+ (e.g., mail, calendar), go to your homepage and hit Close account and delete all services and info associated with it.
Mopping up Residue
With the big four gone, now go after smaller accounts. This includes the forum board you registered with 10 years ago for adult acne support but never posted anything. To aid in tracking everything down, use:
- Account Killer. This tool provides direct links to every account deletion page.
- Knowem. This tool does a username search on hundreds of social sites.
Then remove personal information from background check sites. This involves more complicated procedures.
#6. Hotspot Shield VPN is a free VPN service that protects your device’s data by ensuring that all web transactions (such as filling out forms, shopping, downloads, etc.) are secured through HTTPS.
With Hotspot Shield, your device basically will be surfing through a protected tunnel away from prying eyes and helps maintain some anonymity on an IP address that in most cases can't be traced back to your home address or anywhere you’re at or have been.
Robert Siciliano is an Identity Theft Expert to Hotspot Shield VPN. He is the author of 99 Things You Wish You Knew Before Your Identity Was Stolen See him discussing internet and wireless security on Good Morning America. Disclosures.