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Taking back control of your digital footprint

Concerned? You can ask Google directly to remove any outdated content.

Companies such as China's Xiaomi have developed foldable smartphones in a bid to break into the market. — © AFP
Companies such as China's Xiaomi have developed foldable smartphones in a bid to break into the market. — © AFP

Many people, and in particular younger generations (Gen Z and late Millennials), have an online presence that they are not entirely happy with, and either have, or would like to, make or want to make attempts to rectify this compared.

How should this be approached? Max Beckett, expert at Uswitch.com Broadband shares his top tips for minimising an unwanted digital footprint and how to clean up an existing online presence. These take the form of:

“Google” yourself

Beckett recommends: “Input your personal information such as your full name, address, and phone number into a search engine, and work backwards by deleting any public accounts that appear, or contact the website directly asking to be removed.”

Cull social media accounts

Beckett’s next piece of advice is: “If you’re no longer using a social media account, or it’s simply out of fashion, take steps to permanently delete or privatise it. Social media is often the first thing to appear in an online search result for someone’s name, so it’s worth taking time to remove the information they display.”

Make a list of all the sites you visit

T avoid forgetting where personal information may have been stored, Beckett  recommends: “By keeping an ongoing list of sites you visit either frequently or infrequently, you can then regularly keep check of what information they hold on you, and delete any accounts or personal information that you no longer want them to have.

Make a direct request to the search engines

If there is something of particular concern, Beckett states: “You can ask Google directly to remove any outdated content.”

Think about the past

“MySpace may now be a distant memory, but to be sure remnants of your online past are gone for good, you can use the Wayback Machine to search for personal information in its archive, including from sites that have shut down”, advises Beckett.

Delete email address accounts

Another hint, in relation to email, is: “Removing this crucial element from many account logins is one way of decreasing your chances of being found online.”

Utilise GDPR

For those in Europe, Beckett proposes making the most of the GDPR regulation: “(a) A consumer shall have the right to request that a business delete any personal information about the consumer which the business has collected from the consumer. Having this right is a great advantage when contacting businesses for your personal data removal.”

Official removal sites

Finally Beckett states “For a cost, these services will search the web for your information and remove what they can. However, be aware that in order for them to clean up your personal information online, you will first have to give them personal information.”

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Written By

Dr. Tim Sandle is Digital Journal's Editor-at-Large for science news. Tim specializes in science, technology, environmental, business, and health journalism. He is additionally a practising microbiologist; and an author. He is also interested in history, politics and current affairs.

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