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Legal How-To: Deleting Your Personal Information From the Internet

We are constantly reminded -- and constantly reminding our children -- that what goes on the internet stays on the internet. While the internet has made everything from communication to shopping easier, it's also made it easier for our online mistakes to catch up with us and for online marketers to track us across the web. It may seem impossible to cut the cord at this point, rest assured that there are ways to delete yourself from the internet.

Here are a few legal tips to removing your personal information from the internet.

Start With Social

Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr, LinkedIn, Snapchat, Google+ ... the only thing social media sites gobble up more than your free time is your personal information. Sites that survive on ad revenue want to know everything they can about you, and more often than not we're willing to hand over that info without batting an eye. Deleting and deactivating your social media presence may not be easy, but it's a necessary first step.

And don't forget your shopping accounts, either. Sites like Amazon, eBay, and other online retailers often hold on to your billing information to make future purchases easier. Closing your accounts on these sites will ensure most of that information is removed from the internet. You may also want to deactivate any weekly, monthly, or annual subscriptions or online bills, if you have them, along with any online banking accounts.

Scrubbing Your Search

What about if someone googles your name, or if other sites have scraped your internet history for marketing purposes? As Eric Franklin at CNET points out, data collection brokers "collect data from everything you do online and then sell that data to interested parties, mostly in order more specifically advertise to you and sell you more stuff." Luckily, for every one of those, there are now companies that can scrub your information from the collection brokers. "For about $130 for a one-year membership, the service [like DeleteMe at Abine.com.] will jump through all those monotonous hoops for you" and make sure your information is removed and not re-added to those sites.

Franklin also points out that Google, Bing, and Yahoo have methods for removing specific URLs that contain sensitive personal information. If the actual site is unwilling to remove your info, search engine companies may be willing to at least remove it from search results. Remember to clear your browsing history often, and use browsers in private or incognito mode to prevent creating an electronic URL trail of sites you visit and information you share.

Managing your online separation may not be easy by yourself. If you'd like a hand, contact an experienced internet attorney in your area.

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