There are steps that you can take to manage your public online presence, whether you are simply a privacy-conscious person, or you have an elevated public profile. Getting through all the steps below can take some time, so keep in mind that each step you take is important progress towards protecting your privacy.
1- Take stock of your online presence
- Open an incognito browser window and Google yourself.
- Take note of anything you want to be removed from your search results. You will find public data websites with your address, phone number, etc.
- Are your social media accounts showing up in Google searches? Are your profiles public? Any special event registries that contain personal details?
- Consider what traditional public information might be online about you, such as professional licensure, voter records, corporate filings and real estate transactions.
- Repeat the search using Bing and DuckDuckGo.
2- Take steps to prevent online harassment and doxxing
- Set up a Google Alert for your name
- Explore and tighten your social media privacy settings:
- Complete the information removal process for the sites you found your data on, when you searched yourself.
- For people search sites, you will often have to contact them by email to do this, or submit a request through a form on the site.
- Optional: Use a service like DeleteMe or PrivacyDuck to do much of this step for you.
- Talk with your loved ones and friends about your risk profile, and recruit them:
- As supporters to help you deal with any issues that arise
- To help you monitor your online presence
- To consider the information they post publicly about you.
3- Secure your accounts
- Set up two-factor authentication on your accounts.
- Set up a password manager. Once you’ve got it set up, set aside time to change your passwords to long ones generated by the password manager.
- If you’re not able to do this right away, check your most important logins (email, social media, banks) on haveibeenpwned.com, to see if your login info has been exposed in a breach. If you find a result, change the password to that account immediately, to something that is at least 12 characters, and that you aren’t already using somewhere else. At a later date, do come back to this step and set up a password manager.
- A Guide to Doxxing Yourself on the Internet by The New York Times: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1WleGh4D3_p7TYPhjfKRHQyMYwhZayYZayYY7AZSSzPs/edit?ts=5f18a0a9
- Has some tips for searching yourself, and details on the opt-out process.
- Personal Data Removal Workbook and Credit Freeze Guide by Michael Bazzell: https://inteltechniques.com/data/workbook.pdf
- Has a template for tracking your opt-out requests, and advice for freezing your credit
- DIY Data Removal Guide by DeleteMe: https://joindeleteme.com/help/diy-free-opt-out-guide/
- Enter a website in their search function for instructions on how to opt out of that site
This information was adapted from a guide generously shared by the digital defense fund.