6 Tips to Delete Your Presence on the Internet

3. Website: exercise your right to object

In France, the legal framework is designed to protect the personal data of Internet users. Thus, in accordance with the amended Data Protection and Freedom of Information Act of 6 January 1978, you have the right to access, object to, and correct your personal data

You can therefore request the removal of information published on the Internet, such as your name, address, photos, etc. by justifying your request with a “legitimate” reason. For example, if this publication damages your reputation, invades your privacy, or puts you in danger. 

To do this, contact the person responsible for the website on which this information appears. You will generally find their name in the “legal notices” section, or in the site’s terms of use (at the bottom of the page). Some sites also offer a contact form directly. 

Don’t know what to say? The National Commission on Informatics and Liberty (CNIL) offers you a model letter. After sending it, the person responsible for the site has one month to respond to your request. If this period elapses, you can submit a complaint (along with a copy of your letter) to the CNIL. 

4. Social networks: delete your online history

Do a thorough cleaning of your Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, TikTok accounts… Whether it’s deleting posts, photos, conversations, or your search history, this digital archaeology work can be as time-consuming as it is beneficial. 

On Facebook, go to “Settings and Privacy” then “Activity Log”. You can then delete your activities according to their type, from posts to photo tags. 

On Instagram, to erase your search history, go to your settings > “Account Spaces” > “Your information and permissions” > “Search history” > “Clear all searches”.  

On Snapchat, to erase your personal data, tap the ⚙️ in “My Profile” > “Privacy Controls” > “Clear Data”. You will then be able to choose the data you want to erase. 

Depending on your mobile device, you can also do the following: go to Settings via the cog > “Privacy controls” > “Clear Data”.

On TikTok, to delete your viewing history, click on the “Profile” icon at the bottom right of your screen, then click on the three horizontal lines at the top right of the screen > “Settings and Privacy” > “Activity Center” > “Viewing History” > Then click on what you want to delete. Do the same to delete the history of your comments. 

Be aware that even after performing these cleaning operations, some elements about you may continue to circulate. Indeed, “all it takes is for a screenshot to be taken or for a share to be made by one of our subscribers for our data to leave their original context”, explained to Tech&Co Liliana Bakayoko, a lawyer at the Paris Bar, whose areas of expertise include digital law.

5. Social networks: delete your accounts

Like 52.1 million French people (80.5% of the population), you are registered on at least one social network, according to the annual report of We Are Social. To reduce your online presence, you may need to take a decisive step: delete your accounts. Indeed, as the CNIL reminds us, “any social network that offers the creation of an account” must “also offer a procedure to delete it and thus delete the data”.

To do this, start by listing the social networks on which you have an account, log in, and delete them. Once again, you will need to be patient. Here is the guide to delete your accounts: 

Facebook and Instagram : go to your profile > “Settings” > “Settings and Privacy” > “Account Spaces” > “Personal Information” > “Account Ownership and Control” > “Deactivation or Deletion” > “Delete your account” > Enter your password > Confirm the permanent deletion of your account.

Snapchat : go to your profile > “Settings” > “I need help” > “Account action” > “Delete or reactivate my account” > Click on the link offered by the application to go to the dedicated account portal > Enter the credentials of the account you want to delete > “Continue” > Snapchat will then confirm the deactivation of your account. 

TikTok : press your profile at the bottom right of the screen > Press the icon with 3 lines at the top right > “Settings and Privacy” > “Account” > “Deactivate or delete the account”> “Delete the account permanently”.

X (former Twitter) : click on your profile > “Settings and Privacy” (Android) or “Settings and Support” (iOS) > “Settings and Privacy” > “Your Account” > “Deactivate Your Account” (at the bottom of the page) > “Deactivate” in red at the bottom of the page.

Warning: whether it’s Meta (Facebook and Instagram), Snapchat, TikTok, or X, to permanently delete your account, do not reconnect within 30 days of the process. 

6. Use third-party tools 

As you have understood, deleting your online presence takes time. For practical reasons, you may want to turn to third-party services, free or paid, to delete your personal information online. Among the most well-known are: 

DeleteMe: to delete your data from data brokers.

Jumbo: to alert you if your personal information is involved in a breach, and to delete any content posted on your social media after a certain number of days. 

Justdelete.me: to list the pages leading directly to the account deletion process.

Have I Been Pwned?: to find out if your personal information is involved in a data breach. The site lists over 500 cases of data breaches.

Caution: carefully read their privacy policy before using any third-party tools. Indeed, some services may offer to search for and delete your data on your behalf by accessing your emails, so be vigilant. 

Bonus: good anonymity practices 

Prefer a browser and search engine that respects your privacy. They should guarantee that they do not collect your personal data. You can also choose end-to-end encrypted applications (like Signal or Telegram) and ephemeral messaging if necessary.

Finally, always ask yourself what your favorite apps do with your personal data.

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