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by Idris Ademola Adeleye

5 Min Read | Sat, 28 Jan 2023

How To Freely Remove Personal Data From Online Sources


  • What categorises as personal data?
  • Removing personal data from online sources
  • Summing Up



The internet remembers. Always. And sometimes, this may not be a good thing. 


Things you share on the internet have an incredible shelf-life, a concept often referred to as "digital permanence." It is almost like saying that once you have shared something on the internet, it will always remain there. 


While this is not entirely true, it is something to ponder. Online privacy is a growing concern, and for good reason. Given the amount of personal information that we willing – or unwillingly – share on the internet, it can be challenging to keep track of what's out there and, more importantly, who has access to it. 


Some of us may have shared rant videos, errant tweets, emotional blogs or indiscreet pictures that we regret a few years later or even the very next day. It is never safe or comfortable to have personal data, in particular, plastered across the internet.


What categorizes as personal data?

Your basic details, including name, address, and contact information, are basic personal data. Additionally, educational qualifications, financial details including account numbers, tax details and insurance specifics, passwords, and other identification numbers also fall under personal information and must be fiercely protected. Your pictures and videos also come under the ambit of personal data.


When this information is accessible on the internet, it is vulnerable to data breaches that can cause your information to land on the dark web.  


There is also a large amount of personal data that is shared through data brokers. Data brokers are entities that collect and sell information that you have released on the internet to third parties in a perfectly legal fashion. While it is a legal practice, it is not always in your best interest.


Removing personal data from online sources 

The beauty of the internet is that it has solutions to most problems. There are ways to remove personal data from online sources, and we have listed them for you. The best part? These methods are free.


Limit data accessible through search engines 

Google yourself. While this may sound vain, it is one of the most basic and easiest ways to get a cursory glance at how much of your data is out there and accessible to people on the internet. If any of this content can be deleted by you, do it. While it can be close to impossible to delete all your data permanently, you can control how much of it is easily accessible.


Google, which accounts for 92.5% of the search engine market share, also entertains requests from users for the removal of content. You can submit a removal request to withdraw your name from Google search results. This will prevent anyone from finding information about you by simply searching your name. 


But remember that this move will not remove your information from the original sources where it is posted.


Remove social media accounts

We share more information on social media than we think. An average social media app, for instance, can be scrutinized for location details, living preferences, economic status etc. So, if you want to remove personal data from the internet, it can help to deactivate and delete your social media accounts. 


Moreover, if you also have personal websites or blogs, you can opt to delete them as well. If data from these sites have been posted elsewhere, you can contact the website and request a removal.


Delete unnecessary apps 

We are all guilty of allowing unnecessary apps to lurk on our devices. But before you are tempted to delete them, remove all the information fed into it by checking the privacy setting. In some instances, you can also contact the app company and request them to remove your information permanently. 


If the apps that you regularly use collect personal data such as your contact information, spending patterns and location, reassess them. This data is highly sensitive and can lead to a great deal of harm at the hands of cybercriminals. It is essential to read the Terms Of Use and Privacy details of all apps to determine what kind of data they are collecting and how this data is being used. 


Additionally, constantly monitor your apps and their associated privacy settings. Use your discretion to decide whether an app needs all the permissions it asks for. If the answer is a "maybe", it is better to not provide permission for a particular function. You can always go back if you change your mind.


Clean your internet search footprint

 A lot of your information is exposed through browsing history and habits. Data brokers compile your data from what you willingly share online. So, searching habits, in addition to cache content and cookies, can lead to oversharing your personal data. 


You can also use options such as "Auto Delete" in your privacy settings to regularly delete your browsing data. This will reduce the amount of time your sensitive information is at risk.


Do not use trackers

Avoid using any sort of trackers. This can include cookies that track your browsing history or geo-trackers that feature on certain apps. For cookies, you can use extensions or features that block tracking. For geo-trackers, check the privacy settings of the app and disable the option. 


Summing Up

Our data is more valuable and vulnerable than we understand it to be. It is complicated (read: close to impossible) to wipe all your data off the internet, given how dependent we are on technology today. However, these best practices can significantly reduce the volume of data you share with the world. 


If you feel like you are hitting a wall with protecting your data or that of your company, Zoftware has all the best solutions for you.