The Internet has grown just a bit since former VP Al Gore created it way back in 1983. In that time, chances are that we’ve all left one or two virtual breadcrumbs online. While the right to be forgotten has been (and will continue to be) debated for years, that doesn’t mean you have to wait.
You can perform your own Internet Reset whenever you want.
If you’re a fan of South Park or of The IT Crowd, the phrase Internet Reset might conjure images of a giant Linksys wireless router nestled in a remote cave in California, or of a tiny black box with a glowing red light on top. That’s not the kind of reset I’m talking about.
I’m talking about you. The virtual you. The online you.
If you’ve ever used the Internet (and if you’re reading this article, then I’m guessing you have), then it’s on you to make sure the amount of info you’ve exposed online is reasonable. No one else is going to do it for you.
Even if you’re only online occasionally, you might be sufficiently creeped out by how much information sites like FamilyTreeNow have about you.
Either way, I STRONGLY recommend that you follow the steps below to tidy up your Internet presence.
Step 1: Delete Unused Social Media Accounts
If you’re still using Myspace, that’s cool. This is a judgment-free zone.
If you know where you’ve created social media accounts over the years, then head over to Just Delete Me and start clicking.
If you don’t remember all of the social media accounts you’ve created over the years, then you can visit Namechk.com, type in your social media handle(s), and let them do the heavy lifting.
(On a serious note, though, stop using sites that require Adobe Flash browser plugins. Just… stop.)
Before deleting these accounts, though, there’s no shame in backing up all the things. The list below includes shortcuts to account backup instructions for some of the most popular social media services, but you could also use a quick Google query to find backup instructions for social media services not in the list.
- Instagram – Check out DigiMe
- All Things Google
- Tumblr (Mac only)
- Flickr – Full disclosure: I don’t use this app (Bulkr) myself, so caveat emptor and all that.
- Pinterest – Same as above. If you’re going to use Pinback, read up on the app and the vendor to make sure you’re cool with them.
Step 2: Delete Unused Email Accounts
If you’re email account gets compromised, then every other account linked to that email address (especially for password resets) is at risk.
- ProtonMail – Personally, I’d like to see MORE people using ProtonMail, but like I said earlier: judgement-free zone.
Step 3: Delete Other Unused Online Accounts
Check out AccountKiller.com for a comprehensive list. They’ve got a ton of info, and it’s easy to get lost in a sea of options unless you go there with a shortlist.
Step 4: Remove Cached Search Engine Results
Google yourself. If you find anything you’d rather not see online, submit a request to the search provider to remove those cached search results.
You can remove content for sites you control, but for sites you don’t control, it’s gets a little messy. It varies from one search provider to the next whether or not they’ll remove cached results.
Alternately, you could sign up for an account at Forget.me to complete this step, but creating another online account in order to reduce your presence online seems a bit counterintuitive. Still, there’s no reason you can’t cancel your account after you’re done using it.
Step 5: Opt Out of Data Mining Lists
The good folks over at StopDataMining.me have collected an extensive list of data brokers. If you want these companies to stop collecting/sharing/selling your data, it’s up to you to let them know.
While StopDataMining.me will hit most of the services you’ll want to address, their list isn’t complete. Once you finish up with their list, check out this Reddit post to see if there are any other services you want to contact (*cough* MyLife *cough*).
(If that FamilyTreeNow article I shared earlier in the article still has you a little nervous, you can opt out of their service here.)
Step 6: Clear Your Browser History
Don’t forget to clean up Internet data cached on any device you’ve used to connect to the Internet.
If you’ve used ANY of these web browsers on your workstation, laptop, tablet, or smartphone, clear out everything (all of it; from the beginning of time).
Google allows you to go one step further and delete all of the activity they’ve captured related to your Google accounts. It’s crazy simple, and it would be nice to see other service providers follow suit.
Step 7: Minimize Your Internet Footprint Going Forward
You’ve already put so much effort into reducing your Internet footprint that it would be a shame to see you backslide. The good news is that you can keep that footprint small by making a few minor adjustments to your browsing habits.
First, start using incognito/private mode when browsing the web.
Next, configure most restrictive privacy settings for your social media profiles.
Finally, encrypt all the things.
Stay safe out there!