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How to erase your personal information from the internet (it’s not impossible!)

Vox – Your shopping habits, your family members’ names, even your salary is out there for anyone to see. But you can take back control. “…Before you can get a handle on digital privacy, you first have to understand what is out there. Start by Googling yourself with your browser in private or “incognito” mode — which prevents some tracking and autofilling from your own internet use — and look for social media profiles and data brokers. (Google and its popular Chrome browser hold a wealth of data, too.) This will allow you to see what a stranger would find if they began looking for your information online. For most of us, social media profiles populate the first few search results on Google. Next, find the data brokers. These companies scrape information from public records and compile it into a database. Then, as the name might suggest, they sell it. (This is technically legal, though shady.) Oftentimes, they’ll have things like your birthday, phone number, home address, salary, as well as names of neighbors and family members. This information can be used to hack into other online accounts by giving people hints on how you might answer security questions. Popular brokers include Spokeo, Intelius, BeenVerified, Whitepages, MyLife, and Radaris, but you can find many others on privacy company and reputation management firm Abine’s free library. This audit won’t be comprehensive. Rob Shavell, Abine’s chief executive, says that when his company was founded in 2012, employees removed about 1,000 pieces of information per customer over a two-year period. Today, that number has reached 1,900. This amount of information is too much for the average person to comprehend or completely erase — but you can certainly make it harder for others to find by getting it off common websites…”

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