Believe it or not, the internet is now over half a century old. Of course, it has really come in leaps and bounds in the last few decades, with technological advances and innovations making global communication easier than ever.
The explosion of apps, social media platforms and e-commerce portals that this has instigated has encouraged us to part with more and more of our personal information… but it appears that we may have finally reached a tipping point in this regard. In a recent survey, over 80% of respondents said they were concerned about how their online data is used by others.
For that reason, an increasing number of internet users are contemplating extricating themselves from the World Wide Web altogether. But is such a thing even possible? We’ll investigate the topic in greater detail below.
Can you delete yourself from the internet?
Technically speaking, it’s not possible to remove all traces of yourself and your online activity from the internet with 100% certainty. That’s because most people have been interacting with the net on a daily basis for many years and over this time, they have created an extensive digital footprint which it’s extremely challenging to eradicate.
Having said that, there are plenty of steps you can take to reduce your online exposure and limit the amount of personal information that is shared with others online. This will reduce the likelihood of unwanted outcomes, such as spam messages, unsolicited robocalls and targeted ads, as well as more concerning eventualities such as fraud, identity theft and scams.
How can I remove existing traces of personal information?
Every time you’ve ever interacted with a website, app or digital service provider – and that includes everything from making an e-commerce purchase to signing up for an email newsletter to posting content on social media platforms – you’ve (perhaps inadvertently, perhaps intentionally) shared information about yourself with the world.
To start, you can remove your personal info from Google Search and then go through other steps such as opting out of data brokerage agreements, contacting individual service providers to request the removal of your data and deleting any old or obsolete accounts that you no longer use. This can take a significant investment of time and effort, though there are third-party companies which will lend you their expertise for a nominal fee.
Is it possible to use the internet anonymously in the future?
So now that you’ve cleaned up your online presence as best as possible, can you continue using the internet without leaving further footprints? Yes and no. While your online activity can always be logged in some regard, you can alter your approach to minimize the amount of personal information you leave behind going forward.
This will involve such steps as installing and activating a VPN on your device to mask its location and encrypt all information sent using it, as well as refraining from logging on to public Wi-Fi networks and using browsers which offer greater protection. You can also tweak the privacy settings on your accounts to maintain control of your data more comprehensively.
Given the nature of the beast, it’s all but impossible to remove yourself from the internet altogether. However, with an investment of time, effort and perhaps money, you can reduce your online presence quite substantially.