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Y0ur P@ssw0rd S*cks: The best way to remove your personal information online

Removing your data from prominent data brokers can offer you a bit more privacy.


Mikael Thalen


Posted on Mar 12, 2024   Updated on Mar 12, 2024, 1:45 pm CDT

Y0ur P@ssw0rd S*cks is a bi-weekly column that answers the most pressing internet security questions web_crawlr readers have to make sure they can navigate the ‘net safely. If you want to get this column a day before we publish it, subscribe to web_crawlr, where you’ll get the daily scoop of internet culture delivered straight to your inbox.

It seems nowadays that you can find information on just about anyone with a simple Google search.

People are often shocked to discover that their personal data, such as their home address and phone number, is readily available online.

People search websites—such as whitepages.com—can be used by just about anyone. Whether it’s a parent looking into the background of a babysitter or an employer looking into a prospective hire, such information can be highly useful for the average Joe.

Unfortunately, that information can be abused as well by everyone from stalkers to fraudsters.

So what can you do? Is there any way to get your information taken offline? Although no one will ever be able to get everything scrubbed, removing your data from prominent data brokers can offer you a bit more privacy.

How to remove your personal information online

For starters, data brokers offer an option for you to opt out so that your data can no longer be posted on their site. In order to have your data removed from whitepages.com, for example, a user would have to visit Whitepages’ help page. From there, Whitepages will ask you to provide them with your phone number for verification purposes. Whitepages will then text or call you with a 4-digit code. Using that code, your data should be taken offline within 24 hours.

A few years ago, I wrote a guide on how to manually opt out of some of the largest data brokers. You can take a look at it here. But, given the vast quantity of people search websites, which you can find lists of online, opting out manually would take significant time.

For those who are willing, there are companies you can pay to do all the work for you. One good example is DeleteMe, which will take on the burdensome task for a subscription fee.

When joining, DeleteMe will ask you for as much of your data as possible, including former phone numbers and addresses, email addresses, your Social Security Number, and more. DeleteMe will then scour the internet to find anywhere that data has been posted and request for it to be removed. Not only that, they will continually monitor those websites to make sure that your data doesn’t reappear.

Taking such actions can put you one step ahead of the game. And don’t forget, you can send your tech questions to be answered in the next Your Password Sucks column.

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*First Published: Mar 12, 2024, 6:00 am CDT