This is the place to start your quest for invisibility. Everything that you do on the internet from here on should be done via private browsing. Each browser will have a different way to browse privately, but you should find it straight forward enough. Just go to the main menu and work from there. If in doubt just enter “private browsing” into Google and the name of the browser that you use.
What private browsing does is remove all of your internet search history from your computer as you go along – by which I mean, your computer won’t keep a record of where you go and what you do online. It won’t help you disappear completely, however, as very often your IP address will still be recorded by the websites that you visit, but it’s a good starting point nonetheless.
A better option is to go for an anonymous browser such as Tor. Without going into the ins and outs of it, Tor will allow you to browse the net with complete anonymity. Any sites that you choose to visit won’t be able to record your IP address and there will be no record of you when you leave them either.
Covering Up Your Previous Tracks
Now you’re browsing privately, you can begin work on the process of removing as many fossil traces of your digital footprints in the sand as possible, and that means cataloguing every account you’ve signed up for. To remove yourself from the internet means sacrificing a lot of the conveniences that the internet provides. But, you can’t have it both ways unfortunately. So, if you’re serious about disappearing completely from the web, everything’s got to go.
This won’t be easy. Especially if you’re one of those people who loves signing up for things without giving much thought to them afterwards. You’ll need to make a list of every social network you have signed up for, including the ones you applied to join while they were in Beta or that looked like they may have a future. So, we’re not just talking old platforms such as Myspace and Bebo, you may even have an account with Ello which you stopped using as soon as you released it’s about as much fun as a trip to the clinic.
With social networks, it may be that you can’t remember whether you deactivated the account or not. As such you may want to try entering your name into Google alongside the social network and some facts that are specific to you such as place of birth or interests to narrow it down. It may be that you like Morris dancing or recording the number plates of buses, in which case you will be a very unique individual, and you should be able to determine very quickly if you still exist on those sites or not (I don’t think, for instance, that there’s another Martin Butters out there who would list reciting the entire Um Bongo song in 8 seconds as a key achievement on their LinkedIn profile – so I know that’s me on there).
Remember to search images as well as this can also bear fruit. But don’t be surprised if you find some random pics of you in embarrassing situations on social networks from people you didn’t even know that you had met. Pics taken at parties where someone has tagged you for example. Remember that night you drank 10 beers and decided to do an impression of a Gollum searching for his precious in the gutter? No, you don’t – but the internet does.
You’ll also need to consider email accounts, sites offering freebies or cheap deals that you may have found appealing, and make a note of anything you may have deactivated, but not necessarily deleted (as it’s very important to remember that the two are not the same).
If in doubt, why not ask a friend or family member if they have any alternative emails for you, or if they’re still connected to you on a social network that you have given up on (though if you’re into Morris Dancing you can be forgiven if you have no friends to turn to for help).
In no time you’ll probably start finding accounts for you all over the place.
Delete Your Accounts
The next step is to delete every account that you can. If you remember the login details all the better. If not, you may have to jump through a few hoops, answer security questions and invest a little more time. (Again, if you’re a Morris dancer you’ll probably find that jumping through hoops is the least ridiculous thing you’ve attempted today (unless you’ve tried my Um Bongo thing, that is.)
You may even find that some accounts are trickier to delete than you first thought. But don’t panic, there’s always sites looking to lend a helping hand (not for free, of course – they’re not that helpful), and Abine.com is just one of those sites. For a nominal fee this site will work to delete a variety of your online information for you. From personal information, photos and information held on data sites, they’ll work to remove the lot.
Even better is the fact that they then scour the net every 3 months and do it again. That way, if you’ve been online and not had the opportunity to use a site like Tor, or if you’ve scrabbling around pissed in the gutter again and are worried about photographic evidence, you can sleep safe in the knowledge that they’re not far behind you cleaning up as you go.
Helpful Deletion Tools
JustDelete.me – Many companies use dark pattern techniques to make it tough to delete your account. This helpful directory features URL’s directly to the delete page. These URL’s are color-coded by how difficult the deletion process is.
Account Killer – This huge database features over 500 websites where your information may be. Check out their list of blacklisted sites, like Skype, that make deleting your profile nearly impossible.
Knowem – Enter your name, common username, brand, or product into knowem, which checks over 550 websites for any trace of your existence. This is perfect for smaller forums you may have forgotten.