Wiping yourself from all searches, pages, and databases on the internet is time-consuming. It’s also likely impossible to clear every single digital footprint you’ve left online — but you can get close.
If you’re looking to minimize your online presence, here are some steps to take:
- Round up all your old emails.
- Delete Facebook.
- Delete all other social media and messaging apps.
- Close out all shopping, delivery, and travel accounts, apps, and platforms.
- Dig through old emails, delete forgotten accounts, and unsubscribe from any newsletters and services.
- Reach out to websites that feature your information, and scrub outdated information from Google caches.
- Check whether your emails and phone number have been compromised in data breaches and leaks.
- Send deletion requests to data collection agencies and brokers.
- Check internet archives like the Wayback Machine and send deletion requests.
- Delete your email accounts last.
There are also ways to be more anonymous online, if you want to take that route. Email providers like ProtonMail offer anonymity and privacy protection for communications, while a VPN can hide and change your IP address, so hackers or any other third parties can’t see your true location. A good VPN option is NordVPN:
There are all kinds of reasons why you might want to scrub yourself from the internet. If you’re looking for a job, you’d probably hate for a potential employer to pull up an embarrassing photo or long-forgotten and regrettable tweet. Some people need to cover their digital footprint to ward off cyberstalking, harassment, and other personal safety concerns.
Whether you fall into one of these categories or simply need an online break, you’ve probably wondered about deleting yourself from the internet entirely. We’re willing to say that, while it’s nearly impossible to completely wipe out every single digital trace of yourself online, you can get pretty close.
Thinking about making a break for the exit door and getting off the grid for good? We’ve compiled a step-by-step guide on how to delete yourself from the internet altogether.
Remove Yourself From the Internet in 10 Steps
Before we get started, it’s important to note that this isn’t going to be an overnight kind of thing. Combing through the internet and scrubbing yourself from its pages is going to be a time-consuming effort. Some online platforms won’t delete your account for a month or so either.
Don’t be afraid to bookmark this article and come back to complete the steps as you go along. Either way, you’ll have to start somewhere, so get ready to do some digging.
1. Round up your old emails
In a now-viral Twitter thread, user @somenerdliam — who claims he was already “hacking accounts and systems at the age of 11” — reminds us we’ll need to dig up any old email addresses and make sure we can recover them. Since you’ll be canceling plenty of online accounts and connections, you’ll need those email addresses to do so.
How long have you been online? Do you remember the email you used to sign up for MySpace, Blogspot, or Tumblr? With those old email accounts, as well as the ones you’re currently using, you will be able to access all the websites, newsletters, and other online services you’ve signed up for over the years.
You’re going to need to get back into those accounts and clear yourself out.
2. Start with Facebook
Facebook revolutionized data collection and targeted advertising. While they’ve certainly gotten into some hot water over the years for selling information, there’s a more important reason to start here. When you search your name, your Facebook profile is usually one of the first things to pop up in Google search results. That’s why you’ll need to ax your Facebook account first.
Before you get started, take into consideration connected third-party apps and sites — like Spotify, TikTok, and DoorDash — that use the “Login with Facebook” feature. If Facebook is your only way to log into these accounts, it might complicate things later. Here’s how you can disconnect them:
- Click on the “Settings” cogwheel.
- Scroll down to “Apps and Websites.” This will show you all the third-party sites and apps you’re connected to via Facebook.
- Remove all connections and create usernames and passwords so you can log in to those other accounts as hassle-free as possible.
The accounts you find here will be useful to you in step 5, so make sure to keep a note of them! Once you’ve taken care of this, you can delete Facebook.
Step-by-step guide: Deleting Facebook
When you go into Facebook’s settings, make sure to “delete” your account, and not just “disable” it. To completely delete your Facebook profile, you usually need to use the desktop browser version, not the app.
Here’s a quick step-by-step guide:
- In the top right corner of your Facebook, click the down arrow.
- Click “Settings & privacy.”
- Click the “Settings” gear wheel.
- In the left-hand column, click “Your Facebook Information.”
- Scroll down and select “Deactivation and deletion.”
- You’ll be asked if you want to disable your account or delete it. Select “Delete Account.”
- Enter your password, click “Continue,” and then “Delete Account.”
That’s all there is to it. Facebook won’t completely delete your online account for about 30 days in case you want to get back in. You’ll have to wait that time out for it to be permanently wiped.
3. Close all social media and messaging accounts
Now that you’ve gone through the process on Facebook, you’ve got a playbook to run through on every other social media outlet. Don’t forget dating apps, too. If you want your name, photos, posts, messages, and comments scrubbed from the internet, you’ve got to delete all your social media accounts.
Though we won’t run through the process of each one individually here, we’ve written many privacy guides here at VPNOverview, as well as instructional articles on how to close down accounts. You can use those to get rid of your accounts on all of these platforms, including:
- Facebook Messenger
This is no easy feat, we know, and social media is just the tip of the iceberg. Researchers at Dashlane found that the average American typically has 150 accounts online that require a password. While you won’t need to delete every single one to get yourself offline, you will need to cut plenty. If there are any accounts you do want to hold on to, make sure to pay extra attention to step 7 in this article!
4. Close shopping and e-commerce accounts
Though it might seem impossible to imagine life without Amazon, eBay, Etsy, or AliExpress, you’ll have to close those down as well if you want to completely delete yourself off the internet. E-commerce, online shopping, and delivery services and sites offer plenty of opportunities to review, leave comments, and send online messages. Even if you’re not an avid product reviewer, your profile and name are likely floating out somewhere on a long-forgotten post.
This also means Uber Eats and Door Dash will have to go. Are you into traveling? Don’t forget to get rid of your Airbnb, Expedia, and Booking.com accounts as well.
5. Lose those forgotten accounts
When you’re going through your different email accounts, you can use the search function to target keywords like “Sign up” or “Membership” or even just “Welcome.” This will show you emails received when you signed up for all sorts of services.
Using these emails, you can go directly through their official websites to cancel your old accounts, or hunt down customer service agents and request they close you out. You might be shocked by all services and sites you’ve signed up for over the years, with many of them logging your activity and data.
You also may want to look into some of your old favorite sites too. MySpace, for example, is still active. They’ve just completely changed their layout and functionality. If you plug in your old profile link, however, it’ll still be there. As we mentioned in step 2, digging through your Facebook-connected sites and apps is a great way to find forgotten accounts as well.
6. Scrub your outdated information from Google
Even after deleting accounts and cleaning house, there could still be various pages containing your information showing up on Google. While Google does have a special request form to remove personally identifiable information (PII), this is generally limited to pages containing sensitive data that could lead to identity theft or doxing. This would include data like your Social Security Number, bank account information, login credentials, personal addresses and phone numbers, or even your signature.
While the request form is an extremely helpful tool, in most cases you’ll have to go to the source to scrub pages containing your basic information or photos. This might take some work. For example, let’s say you Google your name and find an old interview you did with your university a few years ago. You’ll have to reach out to the university and request they remove the page themselves.
Even if they fulfill your request, your personal details can still show up on cached Google results. Google regularly updates its cached or outdated search results. However, it could take a few days, weeks, or even months for the search engine’s algorithms to pick up on all the changes you’ve made.
If you want to fast-track the process, you can use Google Search Console. For this, you’ll have to go through each page URL or image one by one and request an update. Once submitted and cleared, the results should vanish.
7. Check for your information in data leaks
If you’ve been thinking that maybe you don’t want to delete all your accounts, there’s still a sure way to keep yourself safer online. You can check if any of your email accounts or phone numbers have been compromised in data breaches and leaks over the years. A great site for seeing how much of your information has been “pwned” (or compromised) is the site haveibeenpwned.com.
On this website, you can enter your email address or phone number and see if it’s been exposed during cyberattacks, data breaches, and leaks. If it has, you can make adjustments, like changing or deleting account names and passwords that might have been affected. Keep in mind that any accounts that aren’t included in your HaveIBeenPwned results, but do use the same usernames, emails, or passwords, might also be in danger.
As a general note, generating strong, unique passwords regularly and enabling biometric logins is always good cybersecurity practice.
8. Go after data collection sites and companies
Even after you’ve nuked your accounts, your information may linger with data collection agencies and vendors. Companies can collect all kinds of information on you if you consent — including IP addresses, type of device used, browser used, and GPS tracking (for mobile), among other data. The company aggregates that information and sells it to vendors for marketing and advertising purposes.
Fortunately for EU residents, the privacy-conscious GDPR rules have made it easier to send requests for your data to be deleted. The same goes for Brazilians with the LGPD and Canadians under the PIPEDA. Below are some more countries that have data protection laws similar to the GDPR:
|Argentina||Personal Data Protection Act|
|Bahrain||Personal Data Protection Law|
|Brazil||General Data Protection Law|
|Canada||Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act (PIPEDA)|
|Israel||Data Security Regulations|
|Japan||Act on the Protection of Personal Information (APPI)|
|Kenya||Data Protection Act|
|Mauritius||Data Protection Act|
|New Zealand||Privacy Act|
|Nigeria||Data Protection Regulations|
|Qatar||Law No. 13|
|South Africa||Protection of Personal Information (POPI) Act|
|South Korea||Personal Information Protection Act (PIPA) 2011|
|Turkey||Law on Protection of Personal Data No. 6698|
|Uganda||Data Protection and Privacy Act, 2019|
|Uraguay||Act on the Protection of Personal Data and Habeas Data Action|
Though each nation has specific laws, DataBrokersWatch.org has pooled together the ten biggest international data brokers. This is as good a place as any to start. Just click on one of the brokers, and it will lead you to forms for deletion requests.
While residents living in the state of California under the Consumer Privacy Act can send deletion requests simply enough, things work slightly differently in the rest of the United States. The Privacy Rights Clearinghouse has compiled a list of major data brokers in the US, including how (and if) you can opt out of their data collection. A fair warning: there are well over 200 data collection groups in that database, so it’s a daunting task.
It’s worth searching out the top data vendors in your region and requesting to have as much data on you deleted as possible. That will ensure that the biggest traces of you are scrubbed clean from servers and databases.
9. Check the archives
There are projects and sites, such as the Wayback Machine, that collect, save and archive public web content for future generations to study. While their intention probably never was to log and store your personal information online, they have likely done it one way or another since 2001, when their archives became publicly available.
If you’ve ever owned, operated, or published a website, its pages are likely logged on the site. Your old MySpace profile is probably on there as well. When we checked now-closed websites and old MySpace profiles, those appeared in searches on the Wayback Machine.
You can send requests by email to [email protected] to have web pages removed, whether you own(ed) them or not. With old MySpace profiles, for example, you’d have to take this route.
To request takedowns of archived URLs and webpages that you own, you can also submit a DMCA takedown order, which is a copyright infringement notice. You can draw one up via the WebsitePolicies app, and attach it to an email sent to [email protected].
10. Now delete your email account
We’ve put this step last, because you’ll need your email accounts to get the early work done. Once you feel like you’ve successfully cleared yourself from online searches and services, you can finally close out your email account. If you want to erase yourself from the internet, you’ll need to delete your Gmail account, Yahoo Mail, or whichever provider you’re using.
Of course, if you think you can’t quite make that leap yet, make sure to set your privacy settings on your Google account to minimize what Google can collect about you. This goes for all any and all accounts you decide to keep.
Delete Yourself Online Automatically
If just scanning this article made your head hurt, there are less time-consuming ways to remove yourself from the pages of the internet. Just like you might outsource that three-day plumbing job to someone who can knock it out in a few hours, you can do the same for your internet presence.
A good service to use is DeleteMe. This program was created to remove all of your personal information from Google, as well as data brokers. While it’s mostly automated, there’s also a human element to uproot your data from even the most steadfast and hidden collectors.
Another good option is Incogni. The real advantage of Incogni is that it’s a very privacy-minded business that gathers as little information about you as possible. They’ll use the GDPR, CCPA, and other privacy regulations to get data brokers to delete your information.
You’ll still want to take care of deleting private accounts yourself, but this service will certainly take care of cleaning those hard-to-reach places.
Think About the Future
It’s tough to imagine a life completely offline. How would you get your job done? Banking and investment apps have moved online, and a huge part of our money is electronic. As Bitcoin and cryptocurrency rise in popularity, so too do the advancements in decentralized finance.
Unless you want to take a van out to the Alaskan wilderness and live off the land, you’ll probably still be interested in staying online, even if you want yourself removed from its pages as much as possible. This means that, in the future, you might want to take steps to protect your anonymity and privacy online. Here are the most important ones to get you started.
1. Get an anonymous email
We’ve always liked ProtonMail for sending anonymous emails. It’s one of the world’s largest secure email service providers and has more than a million active users. It was developed by a team of scientists and has become the leader in encrypted email services.
Of course, if you’re not so concerned with privacy and anonymity, you could always just create a burner Gmail account and Google Voice number for sign-ups and new memberships.
2. Avoid Big Tech browsers and search engines
Google and Chrome are wildly popular for a reason. They make life easier and faster. However, they also collect massive amounts of data on their users. Luckily, there are plenty of privacy-conscious browsers and search engines out there to choose from instead.
DuckDuckGo is the most commonly used alternative to Google for privacy-concerned web searchers. But we’ve also compiled a list of the best Google alternatives to give you more privacy-minded options to replace every Google service, from YouTube to Google Photos.
3. Always use a VPN
A router and internet connection with a strong password are paramount, but there are plenty of situations when a Virtual Private Network (VPN) comes in handy. When you’re hooked up to insecure public Wi-Fi connections — as is the case in most coffee shops, airports and hotels — your personal data is more or less up for grabs. It all depends on if hackers or other third-party snoops are around to take advantage of it or not.
A VPN creates a secure tunnel for you to browse in by swapping out your IP address and allowing you to connect through one of their secure servers instead. All the while, the VPN is encrypting your data with military-grade security protocols, so it becomes so scrambled that no one can decipher it.
In other words, using a VPN every time you go online will help you stay more anonymous. If you’d like a recommendation, we suggest you try out NordVPN. It’s reached the top of our reviews for its security features, fast speeds, and affordability.
Would you rather have a free VPN? Then you can get solid basic service from ProtonVPN. A nice plus is that they’ve included a free anonymous email in their cost-free package, too.
4. Let others know you’re off the grid
Make sure your family and friends know that you’ve taken on this challenge. While getting off of social media will stop you from getting tagged and searched for, you won’t be able to stop all the photos and posts about you unless you let others know.
You’ll have to make your friends and family aware of the fact that you don’t want photos with you in them posted, nor do you want to be mentioned or written about online. If you don’t want anyone else to know the location and time of that group photo at the bar or restaurant, you may even need to step out of frame.
Quitting the Internet: A Big Task
It’s certainly a hassle to cover all your digital tracks. Getting yourself erased from online indexes and search engines will eat up a lot of time, take a lot of work, and you probably won’t ever reach a perfect 100%. However, if you take the steps we’ve listed above, you should be able to get pretty close.
It will also be difficult to stay offline completely these days, so it’s important to take steps to protect your privacy online. Anonymous emails, browsers, and VPNs make the online experience much safer, more secure, and more private.
Got questions about removing yourself from the internet? Click on any question below for an answer. Feel free to leave a question in the comments if you find there’s something we haven’t covered yet.
To delete yourself from the internet, take these steps:
- Delete all your accounts on social media, messaging apps, and shopping, delivery, and travel platforms.
- Scrub outdated information from Google caches.
- Send opt-out requests to data collection agencies and brokers.
- Delete your email accounts.
Want more details? Check out our full guide to quitting the internet to go through the process step-by-step.
To avoid Google searches, you’ve got to get yourself offline. Start with deleting social media apps and accounts, then move on to canceling other accounts and services that have public profiles. Check out our article on how to remove information from Google Search Results for a full explanation.
You’ll need to start by deleting social media and messaging accounts, as well as all apps that make information publicly available, such as dating and e-commerce apps. You’ll also need to send opt-out requests to data brokers and agencies. We’ve broken down how to remove yourself from the internet with a detailed step-by-step guide.