7 steps to clean up your digital footprint

Have you ever Googled yourself? It might sound strange, says André Lameiras from digital security company ESET, but it's actually a great way to discover a small part of what the internet knows about you.


And, more importantly, it's the only way we have to know if we should ask Google to remove relevant personal information that shouldn't be shared publicly.

In April 2022, Google added new options to delete your personal information from the search engine such as ID or photos, bank account details, contacts, personal information and certain data such as medical records.

Of course, Google will not remove personal information contained in published articles or public record databases.

This functionality is in addition to the already existing option to request the removal of content from search that could be used to cause any harm, such as non-consensual pornography, images of minors or copyright violations.

For residents of the European Union, Google already complied with Article 17 of the General Data Protection Regulation for the Right to erasure ('right to be forgotten'), which directs all companies in the EU to delete individuals' personal data after request. The same principle applies to the California Privacy Act and states with similar regulations.

So how do you go about erasing yourself from the internet
Once something is online, it is not easy to delete it.

But there are a few things you can do to "clean up" your online presence, say the experts at ESET and recommend the following 7 steps:

1. Search yourself on Google. First you need to find out how much the internet knows about you. Type your name into search engines, check the first five pages of results, and combine your name search with your phone number or home address to see what comes up.

2. Check the privacy settings of the services you use. Some platforms, such as Facebook or Twitter, have an option in their privacy settings that allows you to protect your content and contacts from appearing in search engines.

3. Contact the website owner. If you want to remove a specific reference to a website, be sure to ask its owner. Most websites have their contact information in the "Contact Us" section.

4. Delete what is not necessary. Many of us overdo it! If you're worried about what the whole world knows about you – and you should – start by deleting old Facebook posts, tweets, photos from when you were 17, or anything else that exposes you. And if privacy is important to you, it's just as important to your friends and family, so delete any photos they appear in with you.

5. Ask Google and Bing to remove your personal information. Now that you've cleaned up some personal information yourself, use Google's new tool to remove personal information from search results. So far, the Bing search engine only allows the removal of non-consensual images or broken links and old content. If you are an EU resident, please use Google's "Right to be forgotten" form and Bing's "Search blocking request" form.

6. Think before you share. So now that you've gone through all that hassle, it's time to plan for the future. Your virtual life goes on - maybe you still want to be on Instagram, LinkedIn, or any other social media platform and that's okay. But take it a step further, review your account privacy preferences, choose wisely who can see your posts, and avoid sharing unnecessary content that you might later regret.

7. Use a VPN. Αυτό το επιπλέον επίπεδο προστασίας θα διασφαλίσει ότι η σύνδεσή σας είναι κρυπτογραφημένη και η τοποθεσία σας καλυμμένη. Πάνω απ’ όλα, αυτό θα σας βοηθήσει να αποτρέψετε τους χάκερ από το να χώσουν τη μύτη τους στις προσωπικές σας πληροφορίες.

Does doing this mean you have full control over your data?
There is no simple answer. Probably not.

But it also depends on what type of user you are. If you're concerned about your privacy and have a limited social media presence, chances are you can erase most of your digital footprint.

Conversely, if your data is everywhere, the above goal is very difficult. Your friends have surely posted pictures of you on social media, and you've lost count of the number of times you've used your email address and phone number to sign in to various websites and apps, not to mention all the data about your online activity. and which these services sell to third parties – with your consent.

But don't be discouraged. There's a good chance you still have time to limit what people or companies can check about you. This is extremely important, not only for the general protection of your privacy, but also to avoid the harm that may come from exposing your religious, political or personal beliefs in public.

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Although the press releases will be from very select to rarely, I said to go ... because sometimes the authors are hiding.

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