It can be a crazy world out there. So much so that some people don't feel comfortable being online.
From websites tracking your every move to having personal information fall into the wrong hands, there are plenty of reasons for concern.
If you are worried about privacy, you might want to remove as much online information as possible. Completely removing yourself from the internet is virtually impossible. Even if you have never been online, there are still sites out there that are full of public information.
Courts and government agencies have been posting public records online since the mid-1990s. Here are examples of public information that could easily be found on the internet:
- Motor vehicle records - this includes registration, licensing and driver history
- Registered voter files - some states restrict this information
- Property tax assessment files - these can include name of owner, property description and assessed value for tax purposes
- Professional and business licenses
- Court files - containing case indexes, tax liens and judgments, bankruptcies, criminal arrests, conviction records and warrants
Even though this public information will seemingly always be available online, you are able to reduce your online footprint.
That's why we're going to tell you how to delete yourself from the internet.
Delete your online accounts
There are dozens of sites that I've got accounts on that have bits and pieces of my information. Guess what? They have the same scoop on you, mainly your email address, username and password at a minimum.
However, there are steps you can take to keep yourself protected. I recommend getting rid of old, unwanted and unused accounts. Just wipe the slate clean.
Sound like a tough thing to tackle? Sure, every site has different rules on how to close your account, and some are more difficult to get rid of than others. The good news is there is a site that can help with that.
It's called Account Killer and it has a collection of direct links and instructions on how to easily delete your accounts with Facebook, Twitter, Google, Groupon and hundreds of other sites and services.
With AccountKiller's color-coding system, you can see at a glance if a site will be easy or hard to leave. White means it is easy to remove, while the ones in gray or black are harder to deactivate.
If a site like Skype, for example, won't let you easily delete your account, AccountKiller will tell you how to hide your personal data. It can also provide you with any of the necessary contact information you need to erase your digital footprints.
Note: Before deleting any of your accounts, you need to understand that many of them are unrecoverable. Meaning once you've deleted it, all information associated with it will be gone forever. Most likely you can create a new account if you choose to later, but it will be like starting from scratch.
If you need to delete other accounts that are not listed on Account Killer, do an online search for "How to delete," and add the name of the account you'd like to delete.
Shut down your email accounts
This is a really big step. Shutting down your email accounts means anyone who you have given your address to over the years will no longer be able to send you emails. But if you're serious about getting off the internet it must be done.
Gmail is the most popular service out there with over 1 billion users. Yahoo used to be one of the more popular choices. Let's go over how to close them both.
Deleting your Gmail account
If you've maintained a Gmail account for more than a few weeks, you've probably stored an email or document that you'll want later on. Years-long users may have hundreds of letters and attachments that they'll want to refer to down the line.
Before you pull the plug on Gmail, make sure to download your data. This is an easy process: Just visit the "Download Your Data" page, pick the service you use (in this case, Gmail), and pick your download's "file type."
Finally, you'll need to select how to save your data. Since you're leaving the internet you should select the Add to Drive under Delivery method. This will let you save your files to your computer's hard drive for later use.
All right, you've backed up your data and you're ready to say sayonara to your Gmail account. Remember: terminating your account means you can't go back. All your information will be deleted, and your address will no longer work.
Visit the "Account Preferences" page, then Delete Products >> Gmail. Follow the instructions, and finally hit "Delete Gmail."
If you deleted your Gmail and feel weird about it, you still have a chance to reactivate your account. According to Google, if you deleted your account "recently," you "might be able to recover your old emails." However, it does not state how long this option is available, so be sure before deleting this account.
Deleting your Yahoo email account
First, you will need the passwords for the accounts you're closing. If you have a child and family account, make sure you delete the child account first. Once you delete an account, it can't be recovered. Then, follow these steps:
- Go to the "Terminating your Yahoo account" page.
- Read the information under "Before continuing, please consider the following information."
- Confirm your password - if you forgot your password, you can recover it with the Yahoo Sign-in Helper.
- Click Terminate this Account.
Remember, if you do close your Yahoo account, you will not be able to use services associated with it. So be sure this is what you want before closing it.
If you are using an email account from a provider that we didn't cover here, do an online search on how to close that account. You should easily be able to find step-by-step instructions on how to close it. Don't forget to close every email account that you've ever used.
Remove yourself from data broker sites
Want to hear something a little bit creepy? Anybody who's willing to pay online data brokers - aka people-search sites - can learn your phone number, address, criminal record and a lot more.
Even more creepy? This information doesn't always come at a price. You could be giving it away.
Primary data brokers like Intelius collect information from public records. Secondary data brokers, like Spokeo, aggregate information from primary brokers and add data collected from social networks and other online sources.
Not only is it creepy, but having all this information floating around on the internet can have more dangerous effects too, mainly stemming from internet "trolls." If a troll gets a hold of your information, such as name, phone number, address, online accounts, etc., and then "drop boxes," or releases your information online, hundreds or thousands of internet trolls can appear and start harassing you.
The scary thing is it's possible to get anyone's information, especially if a troll is willing to spend a few dollars. Almost everyone's information - including yours - is publicly available through a variety of "tracking" sites.
If you want to have your information removed from data broker sites, you need to contact them and request to opt out. Click here to learn about this cool site that will help you with this process.
Using a VPN
As we said earlier, it's virtually impossible to completely remove yourself from the internet. However, if you follow the suggestions in this article you will definitely minimize your online footprint. If you decide later that you miss the convenience provided by the internet, there is a way to stay stealthy.
It's very convenient to bank, shop and post photos and status updates online. It means you don't have to physically go to the bank, the store or travel long distances to catch up with family and friends who might be scattered around the country.
The drawback to doing these and other things online is that your information is traveling through the internet. It isn't a straight shot between you and the site you're using, either. The data can bounce through servers around the country or even around the world.
That gives hackers many opportunities to steal your information. If they can grab it in transit, they can learn your passwords, details about you they shouldn't know, or even pretend to be you to trick your bank or other secure sites.
That's especially true if you're using public Wi-Fi. Hackers on the same network have plenty of tools to snoop on what you're doing.
To encrypt your connection, you can use a virtual private network (VPN). In the business world, VPNs let employees working remotely create an encrypted connection with the company network so they can work safely.