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Remove Personal Information From The Internet

by Bill Rounds Esq. on February 20, 2011

Reading time: 5 – 8 minutes

Tattoo ink and internet ink are very similar.  A lot of people are getting tattoos and putting their personal information on the internet.  But, both tattoos and information on the internet are regrettably hard to remove.   Even good ol’ Mark Zuckerberg is finding out the hard way that making some personal information public might be a bad idea.

Whatever the popular trend is, there will always be some people who aren’t fond of permanent identifying marks.   But what can you do if you have made a few foolish mistakes in the past and you need to remove personal information from the internet?  Fortunately, it is a lot less painful to remove some of your personal information from the internet than it is to remove a Mike Tyson Special.

GO TO THE SOURCE

Removing private info from online profiles is an obvious first step, but there are a lot of websites that share or sell your data without your knowledge.  There are ways to clean up a lot of that information too.

There are more websites that will share or sell your private data than anyone would like to count.  A lot of the internet is just a big echo chamber.  For every website with original content there are tons of other sites copying and repeating what was said before.  If you want to take down information, focus on removing it from those sources.  This narrows down your action to a few, rather than hundreds, of potential sources.

Intelius and Acxiom are two big data aggregators that are the biggest source for most other websites that share sensitive information on the internet.  Removing your information from Intelius or Acxiom will effectively remove it from most other websites too.  You may still want to remove personal information from other sites too, just to be on the safe side.

CONTACT SITES DIRECTLY

Most sites allow you to remove data like address, phone number, and social security number.  Every company has a different method and you need to follow their own procedures.  They might let you do it online, they might make you do it through the mail.  Lots of times they will want you to provide more personal information to prove who you are to remove your information.  Here is a list of the main sites where your information might be found with a link to remove your info.  You might want to check each one to see how much of your own personal information shows up.

REMOVE PERSONAL INFORMATION FROM THE INTERNET

Intelius.com

Acxiom.com

USsearch.com

Google.com

Zabasearch.com

Peoplefinder.com

Whitepages.com

Yahoosearch.com

411.com

Whowhere.com

Privateeye.com

Infospace.com

Anywho.com

PublicrecordsNow.com

ADDRESSING THE SYMPTOM, NOT THE PROBLEM

Removing information from any of these sites, even Intelius or Acxiom, is like removing an unwanted tattoo.   It is much better to avoid the tattoo in the first place than to try to remove it later.   Plus, there are no guarantees that you can even remove it completely.  The only way to do that is to know how your information gets in those databases in the first place, and prevent it from ever showing up there.

WHERE DO THESE GET ALL THIS INFO

All of these websites collect your information from a lot of places like your online profiles (Facebook, linkedin, match.com, etc.) public records (property ownership records, court proceedings, census data, etc.) job application or resume sites, credit reporting agencies, smartphone apps, entering a sweepstakes to get free stuff, and lots of other sources that they won’t even tell you about.  Data is valuable and most organizations that get it, sell it.  Selling your information is what made Mark Zuckerberg a billionaire.

PREVENT PERSONAL INFORMATION FROM SHOWING UP ON THE INTERNET

There are lots of ways to prevent information from ever showing up in these public sources, and from showing up online.  The best way is to leave personal information blank whenever you are asked to provide it.  When you must share information, use a ghost address, pre-paid cell phones, a business entity, and other anonymizing techniques you can find in the book How To Vanish.

Another very useful thing you can do is to use a Virtual Private Network or TOR. This way any WIFI connections or your ISP are not able to keep logs of your Internet activity. If you do use a VPN then never trust one unless they accept bitcoins because that severs the connection between you and your identity via a credit or debit card, etc. For these reasons we recommend Private Internet Access.

private internet access

CONCLUSION

Like tattoo removal, removing personal information from the internet is not perfect.  Traces of your personal information online may remain for a very long time.  If you already have some unwanted informational tattoos, its not too late.  The sooner you get started removing personal information from the internet, the better off you will be.

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13 comments

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Bill Rounds, Esq. is a California attorney. He holds a degree in Accounting from the University of Utah and a law degree from California Western School of Law. He practices civil litigation, domestic and foreign business entity formation and transactions, criminal defense and privacy law. He is a strong advocate of personal and financial freedom and civil liberties. This is merely one article of 123 by .
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{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Dan April 14, 2011 at 6:58 am

Many of these databases require that you give them documentation of who you are before they remove or edit the information they have on you. This seems like a scam to gather better information than they might already have.

Say you want your address or phone number deleted. You need to send them a copy of your driver’s license so they can verify it is you.

Now they have your fax number and even more information in which to sell.

They might remove your information, but chances are that they will distribute your correct information to clients, that will later be found in the database that you just had your information removed from. Confusing..

Your best bet is having a friend set you up with a home phone, if you need it, or just using the go-phone types of cell phones. Get your driver’s license in a different state and use a homeless shelter as your address.

Just NEVER, EVER give out your true information to anyone! That’s the only way to keep it confidential. Once you surrender your private information to anyone, ,it ends being private. Remember, someone they trusted with their life killed all of the greatest rulers and leaders. I remember when the social security card was ONLY to be used for social security purposes. You couldn’t use it for identification by law!
Now any way they can track you is fair game!

It can take some work, but you can have your information secret. It takes being secret in all that you do!

2 fred April 20, 2011 at 4:23 pm

Dan is right.
There is no real advantage to putting your personal information online, but many disadvantages. You didn’t need to before, why now? Like Dan says, never ever give out your true details online. Just don’t bother.

3 jstorm June 24, 2011 at 7:34 am

What I could never understand is why anyone has any right to any personal information on anyone, much less to sell such private details willy nilly as if it was some type of property.

This business that we have to run around ASKING to have our personal info removed – then wind up handing over more – is absolutely preposterous.

It should be the opposite – THEY should have to request permission to disclose any personal info – and I mean ANY – before making it public by any means. We should have the right to our personal lives first and foremost. Not run around wasting our time trying to protect it from the data mining thieves and thugs.

4 Ronald April 10, 2012 at 11:47 am

They( Intelius) asked me for a drivers license with certain items blanked out. Then they wanted more info and were obviously stalling. I need further help with this subject. HHHHHHelp.

5 Pat May 5, 2012 at 5:43 pm

@Ronald: You can just fill out a notary verification form on their website and have it notarized.

6 brie June 23, 2012 at 12:20 pm

WHY must we give our email HERE b4 we can leave comments??? WTF!!

7 Axel July 14, 2012 at 4:25 pm

@ brie

Why give this site, or any site for that matter, your real e-mail address?

I use Firefox with an add-on called Bloody Vikings. It can create a valid e-mail address on the fly. I’m providing a legitimate e-mail address without giving out my “real” one.

Concerning the comments by Dan, fred and jstorm, agreed. And generally speaking, I don’t give out such verification documentation on a whim. But I have noticed, after having done so, that my phone number no longer appears in most, if not all, of the online search sites. In this same regard, I might suggest that folks go to http://www.dmachoice.org/dma/member/registration, register and then opt-out of EVERTHING there. This has helped reduce the amount junk of mail I receive; it’s noticeably less now. And while this discussion isn’t primarily “snail mail,” it is important to draw the parallel.

I got off a lot of e-mail lists by signing up at https://www.optoutprescreen.com/. Consider doing that yourself.

8 Richard Fitzwell October 23, 2013 at 1:52 am

This is more of a question i hope alot of geeks might ponder and answer.I would never condone violence of any sort except to protect family and friends. If key words are used by you hnow who to flag you couldn’t everyone just start using words to throw a kink in there teckniqeus. such as the following 2 sentencesyou may say or write to a friend or neighbor.I think i will go to the grocery store and buy a sack of beans. “or” I think i will go to the grocery store and buy a nucleur bomb sack of beans.And your friend or neighbor would know ahead of time that anytime you put a word like that into a sentence to just ignore it.

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