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The way information is circulated online, the internet probably knows more about most individuals than their closest friends and families. However, what would happen if one could erase themselves from the internet? Though the situation may sound hypothetical, with the help of modern internet services and a little digging into how data works, one can get rid of one’s online identity.
By deleting oneself from the internet, an individual can take control of their privacy and how they want the data to be utilized. To begin this procedure, it is important to understand how online presence works and the way companies collect data.
What is data collection?
Data collection happens at every stage of the internet, and hundreds of companies track users’ data to deliver personalized ads. Many apps access personal information regardless of the software, platform, or region. This can help optimize the app to suit the users’ best interests, but at the same time, it is an invasion of user privacy. So, who is selling and who is buying these data sets?
The answer is complex because many individual parties are involved in the process of user data. Any activity carried out on a smartphone is tracked by marketing companies. Businesses continuously monitor users’ surfing behavior and use this information to provide targeted adverts and product recommendations.
Big banks, insurance providers, real estate firms, and digital businesses are the most prominent players in the data business. There are many user data beneficiaries, and these organizations abuse these data to gain financial gains or to close the gap between customers and their products and services. This user data is collected and compiled by data marketing firms and is packaged as an online product to be sold to companies and advertisers.
Everything that happens within the realm of electronic boundaries should be scrutinized. But how is that possible? Shouldn’t companies protect users’ data? Well, not entirely, because everything shared online with or without the user’s consent is data.
Companies like Facebook and Google are built on advertisement-based models and follow their advertisement ecosystem. Smaller companies are built on the sale and purchase of user data — their revenue systems span over users B2B firms and B2C revenue models.
Here is an example to demonstrate the buying and selling of user data on the internet. If an app or business has 1,000 monthly users and a third party offers to pay $1 per user data, the primary company would receive USD 1,000 monthly per thousand users.
How do companies harvest data?
Once the information is sold to third-party companies, the data miners classify data according to the latest trends, buying patterns, and consumer habits. They create subsets of data and use two or more techniques to reach accurate results that would be used in the real world to sell products and services.
For instance, by identifying the relationship between two separate data sets, businesses can deliver targeted advertisements that users are more likely to click on. The way that data is used in shopping apps, where customers are encouraged to buy items linked to the ones they have already purchased or are planning to buy, is an excellent example of how companies use data to persuade customers to buy more.
If a user plans to buy a gaming mouse from Amazon or any other eCommerce site, the possibility of the company recommending gaming mousepads, headphones, and keyboards is high. Even if the user leaves the platform and switches to internet browsing, they might see those gaming products again, demonstrating how complex data is and how companies use it to increase sales.
Unfortunately, the practice of data harvesting exists in most applications and websites that run on the internet. For example, even the most safe-looking app, such as a calculator, can collect sensitive data from devices.
Find digital footprint
The best way to delete one’s identity from the internet is to find which companies and applications hold their data. Fortunately, various services check a user’s digital footprint and help track down the companies that use their data. Here is a list of companies offering internet digital footprint services.
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Delete yourself from Google
Google is the biggest search engine on the internet. According to seo.com, Google processes at least 2 trillion searches annually and has 4,464,000,000 daily search queries, followed by 873,964,000 daily searches by Bing. Like every other internet service, Google is a product, and the search queries can be cataloged for marketing purposes. Additionally, search engines like Google fetch information from third-party websites and public databases, which can be used to uncover the private information of individuals.
However, users can utilize Google search’s function to identify websites and applications that might contain their personal information. One can search for their names, phone numbers, or email addresses. By searching for these terms, there is a possibility that the search result will display the apps and websites that hold their data and are available in the public domain.
After that, it is easy to delete the data from those services. However, to completely vanish from the internet and specifically from Google services, one can permanently use the Google Search Help page to delete their data from the internet.
Delete data from Google
The first step is to visit the Google Search Help page. The rest of the process is given below.
- From the available options, click on the one that says “Start removal request.”
- On the next screen, select the information to be removed from Google.
- Follow the on-screen instructions from there.
- From there, follow the instructions to delete specific information from Google.
- Website owners can delete their webpage and associated data with GSC.
- It involves using robots.txt files, meta tags, and password-protection of web server files.
Delete digital identity (third-party)
There are several services on the internet that offer data protection against brokers. As a service charge, these websites charge a small fee in exchange for identifying and deleting user data. Interested users can wipe out their digital identity by using these websites. Here is a list of some companies that offer data deletion services.
These companies keep a tab on data collection and remove user names, addresses, email IDs, contact information, social profiles, and other information from third-party websites.
Delete your social media profiles
Social media has blurred the line between what is real and what is virtual. Although useful and enjoyable at times, it can become a time-consuming addiction. Moreover, most social media platforms collect user information and damage the user’s privacy on a large scale.
Apps like TikTok, Facebook, and Instagram collect location data and the things their users searched for, among other private information they might have. Many individuals might opt-out of this data exploit, and several methods can be utilized to delete user data from social media platforms.
Now, there are many ways to limit or stop data scattering. Doing that seems impossible because these apps make it very difficult to navigate to the settings that would allow users to delete their data and accounts. However, the solution is pretty simple and doesn’t require any technical expertise.
- Go to Facebook and log in to your user account.
- Once inside your account, click on Setting and Privacy.
- Click on Your Facebook Information on the next page.
- Now, click on Deactivation and Deletion.
- On the next page, choose Deactivate Account.
- Click Continue and follow the on-screen instructions.
- That’s it!
- Open Instagram on your device and sign in to your account.
- Now, tap on the profile picture and to your profile.
- Tap in the top right corner and then select Settings.
- On the next page, click on account and tap Delete.
- Click on Delete again and select ‘Continue deleting the account.’
- Complete the rest of the on-screen instructions to complete the process.
- Download and install TikTok on your smartphone.
- Once installed, open the app and select the Profile section.
- Once you’re there, tap on the three lines in the top right corner of the screen.
- Now, you’ll see the “Settings and privacy” screen.
- On the next page, click on Manage account > Delete account.