(At all times in this review, we are referring to U.S. digital presence. The European GDPR law and rules – the right to be forgotten, aka the right to erasure – will be covered in a future post.)
Every day we see articles and advertisements claiming to help you “delete your digital footprint”. We’re not here to sell you anything – we provide you with the facts and, thoroughly tested, solutions. To this end:
Fact 1 – You cannot entirely delete your digital footprint, albeit, you can have certain information redacted. (See Step 6 below.)
Fact 2 – You can modify, minimize and moderate your digital footprint.
Addressing Fact 2, we include several common sense recommendations to minimize (in some cases, remove) your unwanted or irrelevant digital references and, very definitive actions you can take up directly with the data providers to better manage your public profile.
1. Go through your email, especially the Spam folder. Identify old, nuisance or trial accounts by using keywords such as “welcome”, “verify your email” and “free trial”. Delete these accounts on the company sites.
2. Delete old emails that you no longer use. Under the Electronic Communications Privacy Act of 1986, servers such as Gmail, consider email unused for 180+ days abandoned. Furthermore, the government can access these “abandoned” emails without a warrant.
3. Go to haveibeenpwned.com and find out if your email addresses, phone numbers or passwords are in hacked/leaked databases available to criminals. (This information on this site is a small representation of the personal data criminals can access.)
4. Search your user names and delete the ones you no longer use. (If you can conduct this search, so can others- and potentially learn private things about you – where you shop, your political supports, affiliated organizations, etc.)
5. Change your social media privacy settings to control who can see your posts and while you are conducting this task, delete your old social media posts. Facebook was founded in 2004. By now, that college student is in her mid-30s; the associate lawyer is now a partner or a sole practitioner and surely, many original users have their own families, so perhaps it’s time to archive the night-out w/friends pics.
6. Opt out of data provider websites. These people finder sites collect tons of personal information such as names, addresses, ages, birthdays, phone numbers, tangible assets (homes, cars) and even court records and, these records are not always inaccurate. There are hundreds of these sites in the list we’ve compiled during the course of work (and we’ve successfully petitioned the majority of these sites for client information redacted/removed or corrected).
7. Text with Telegram (read our recent article on this ultra-secure and secret messaging app), search with DuckDuckGo (it doesn’t track your searches) and avail yourself of a ProtonMail free email account (end to end encrypted email that contains zero knowledge -IOW, not even the provider can read the contents of your ProtonMail email, unlike Google and the majority of email providers.)
We’ll update this list as new viable developments in digital privacy occur, so check back often.
BNI operatives; situationally aware.
As always, stay safe.