Wednesday, September 1, 2010

How to Delete Yourself from the Internet

from wikiHow - The How to Manual That You Can Edit

Seeking to escape from the internet? While online notoriety thrills some people, for others, it can become a great burden or even a fear. Perhaps the internet has kept you enthralled and even "captured" for the past years to the point where the rest of your life is being left behind, or perhaps you're still not convinced this is a way to live, up front and obvious to the whole world.
Whatever your reason, while it might not be possible to erase yourself completely, you can do a very decent job removing yourself as much as possible from the internet. This article will discuss the most obvious ways in which you can delete yourself from the internet.


  1. Think this through very carefully before proceeding. Much of what is suggested below cannot be undone. This means that you will lose information, forfeit any marketable presence that you've developed online, and in some cases, you'll even lose the opportunity to restart your account using the same name or even the same email address. It might be drastic but if that's what's needed to set you on your new life's path or to escape being "known" online, the remaining steps will explain all.

    • Consider what is driving your wish to delete yourself completely. Is it a one-off scare from a cyberstalker? Is it a bad experience? Or is it an overall sense of being fed up with the pervasiveness of it in your life? Be sure to have fully worked through your concerns.
    • Are there other ways around your concerns, such as changing your online name, or using a different email account from your normal one for sending job applications, etc.?
    • Have patience and perseverance. This is not an easy task and there will still be echoes of your presence online that might not be worth the effort of chasing up. It all depends on why you want to delete yourself from the internet.
    • Realize that you might not even remember the extent of sites you've joined, created, participated in, etc.
    • Be polite. While you might be motivated by anger, fear, or irritation, don't let this come across in your tone and attitude when contacting website managers. They're human and will respond to reasonable requests couched in reasonable terms. If you're looking for a name removal because you're job searching, tell them - this at least lets them know you have a genuine reason. Avoid shouting, threatening legal action (unless you mean it, and only after they prove uncooperative), or generally being a bad sport.

  2. Delete accounts. As already noted, it's possible that you've joined up to more sites than you'll ever remember. The more well-known the site, however, the better it is to remove yourself from it when trying to disappear from the internet. This won't necessarily resolve "deep web" memory of you but it's a good start. The following list is provided to help make it easier for you to know how to start ridding yourself of the principal sites:

  3. Close associated sites. Associated sites are third party applications that helped you to use your social networking accounts, such as Hootsuite, Tweetdeck, etc.
  4. Close your personal sites. If you have created sites on the internet, you will need to remove them completely. Some of the sites you might have include:

    • Blogs
    • Personal wikis (it's unlikely you can remove a wiki others are actively sharing in even if you started it)
    • Groups (Ning,, Yahoo Groups, etc.; again, your ability to shut down might be dependent on participation of others)
    • Blogs within sites - many sites offer blogs as part of joining the site, don't forget these if you have started any
    • Forum posts (this is likely to be next to impossible for many sites)
    • Articles that you have added to article mill sites (ability to remove these will be dependent on the terms and conditions of those sites).

  5. Delete search engine returns that feature you. Search engines cache old sites, pages, information, etc., including mentions of you. You will need to contact search engines direct for the trickier removals that return you when searched. Be aware that removing yourself from some search engines online is fairly detailed work, some involving paperwork in the real world, such as sending faxes, etc., to confirm your real identity. Major search engines and people search engines that will probably return your details include:

    • Google - read how to ungoogle yourself
    • Yahoo
    • Bing
    • Whitepages
    • USsearch
    • Intelius
    • Yahoo People Search
    • Acxiom
    • PeopleFinder
    • ZabaSearch

  6. Consider using a professional company to remove your details from the internet. If contacting the myriad search engines one-by-one overwhelms you (and it is a very daunting prospect), you might be able to use a professional service to do the work for you. Of course, you will need to pay but it might be worth it if your reasons for removal are pressing. Look for a service that:

    • Is able to remove you from the "deep web" rather than just the obvious services.
    • If possible, has agreements in place with data source providers.

  7. Cancel all mailing lists. This should be fairly straightforward as usually the method for unsubscribing is in the body of each email, often with a direct link. Follow the individual instructions given. If you can't find such instructions, contact the site administrators direct.
  8. Cancel your email account. If you're going to this extreme, the method for deletion will depend on whether you're using a paid-for service or a free-roaming service on the web.

    • If free (e.g., Gmail, Hotmail, etc.), cancel following the site's instructions.
    • If paid for, contact the relevant company for instructions. Even web-based paid mail should have live people to contact.
    • Some free email accounts self-delete with lack of use.
    • Always check that you're not throwing away any vital information that you want to keep before you delete your account. Transfer all materials you need to a memory stick or other storage facility.

  9. Clean up your computer.

    • Remove all internet history, cookies, etc.
    • Remove the internet program if you're really adamant.
    • Remove your computer if you're going "cold technology".

  10. Shrug off what you can't remove. There may be some things that you can't do anything about. In that case, it is probably best to just accept that reality as you move on. If instances of your online come back to haunt you, you could always try denying it's you, especially if you have a common name! The following instances of your online presence will be very hard to erase:

    • Mentions of you in news items, blog posts, audio files, etc.
    • Your own interviews given to newspapers, radio stations, etc.
    • Comments you have left here, there, and everywhere.
    • Photos of your own used by other people on their websites and blogs; you would need to have copyright ownership in order to retrieve them and that could be a lengthy and wearying process.
    • Government sourced information that is considered appropriate to keep publicly available (except where a process is in place to remove such information).


This video contains some good advice on what to look for when you're first considering removing yourself from online, including whether you'd rather create false aliases and decoy accounts rather than deleting yourself completely.


  • If feeling addicted is the underlying impetus for deleting yourself from the internet, you might prefer to try removing the addiction rather than the internet. Some articles to check out include:

  • There are software programs that will help you to remove yourself from online sites. Do a search online.
  • If there is a problem with false or defamatory information about you online, contact a legal practitioner for advice in your jurisdiction.
  • If you're really in a mess about having your name and details spread across the internet and don't know what to do next, seek help from privacy watchdogs such as Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) (USA) for personal advice.
  • Have you considered changing your name, either online or offline? It's probably easier!
  • Consider using a fake name and fake information - create a web based email account with fake info.


  • Keep in mind the adage, "once online, there for all time". Always take care with what you share in the online environment: prevention is better (easier) than cure.
  • Some sites use emotional blackmail techniques to encourage you to stay. Such comments as "all your friends will miss you" are targeted at making you think twice (after all, the site doesn't want to lose your patronage). If you're wavering, get photos of your real life friends, put them in front of you on the desk, press "delete" on the site, and phone up your real friends to go have a drink and chat together. You'll be over it just like that.
  • Expect a tongue lashing from some webmasters who will insist on their "right" to keep public information public. Some of them just don't get the personal and privacy angle and see this as a personal affront against what they stand for. Just be persistent and if needed, get help from a privacy organization or a lawyer if your need for privacy is pressing or serious.

Things You'll Need

  • Computer
  • Standard request to webmasters - if you are sending a lot of these, craft a good, well-reasoned template request at the beginning
  • Legal advice if the reason is serious (such as witness protection, etc.)

Related wikiHows

Sources and Citations

  • Domain Tools, - use this to help you look up ownership of a website so that you know who to contact if needed (especially helpful if no email provided on a site) - look for "admin email" and "server data" in the retrieved information.
Article provided by wikiHow, a wiki how-to manual. This page was last modified 09:11, 1 September 2010 by BR. Based on work by Eric, Jordan, Tess and BR, wikiHow user(s) Flickety and Anonymous. All content on wikiHow can be shared under a Creative Commons license.

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