As soon as one registers their first email address, they start a long trail of personal data across the Web.
Then comes Facebook, of course! How can one live without it? And then, you register on Twitter, lest you might miss out on something important.
The more accounts you open, the more personal information you reveal to the search engines.
If you are concerned about what Google knows about you, here’s how you can find out in several easy steps.
7 Easy Steps to Track Your Online Information
Digging out everything the Web knows about you is a marathon, not a sprint. Arm yourself with patience and perseverance, and let’s begin!
1. Retrace your footsteps on the Web
First, try to remember every website registration you ever made. There are plenty of sites where you probably opened an account just to read a free article.
Think of any disused email accounts or online game forums. Scratch your brain for any dating sites you used to frequent in your college year.
Once you are done, grab a pen and paper and make a list of these sites.
1.1. Recollect usernames & restore passwords
Once you have the list of websites ready, you should try to remember the usernames you used on each one.
The task will be easier if you use one username across several sites.
Some sites may require the email address you used to open your account so as to send you a new password. The more passwords you manage to retrieve, the better.
1.2. Close unused accounts
As a next step, you should close all unused online accounts you’ve managed to regain access to.
As you may have already noticed, registering on a website is far easier than closing your account.
Big social platforms take a month to fully remove your information from their servers.
1.3. Request confirmation
Once you’ve closed your old online accounts, you should find reliable channels to contact the websites’ admins and request confirmation that your data has been completely removed from their servers.
2. Find out what your smartphone shares about you
As soon as you’ve closed all unused web registrations, it’s time to check what personal information your phone collects and shares online.
Go to “apps & settings” and review what applications you have downloaded and what information about you they collect.
2.1. Fitness apps are the noisiest
Fitness applications are the most curious ones. They collect sensitive information like age, location, jogging routes, gym memberships, weight, etc.
Although they do not automatically share this info online, their owners usually brag about their sports achievements on social networks and specialized forums.
2.2. Disable location tracking
To cut a long story short, disable location tracking on all apps that have requested access. Taxi apps should be the only exception. Remember that all smartphones are hidden trackers disguised as communicators.
3. Run a background check on yourself
If you want to find out what information about you is circulating online, you should conduct a background check on yourself.
3.1. It’s comprehensive
The primary reason why people do online self-screenings is to learn what part of their personal info is publicly available.
You’ll get a free trial offer, even if you register on a free people search website. You may notice potential hook-ups if you are patient enough to read the small print.
If there are none, you can proceed and request a premium self-check. The reports are pretty accurate and comprehensive.
Depending on the people search engine, they may cover everything from high school records, through court records, to road traffic violations and employment history.
3.2. It’s worth running a premium self-check
Premium people search accounts may involve recurring monthly payments, so you should be careful before clicking the final “YES.”
Still, such an account can be helpful if you are on a quest to uncover everything the Internet knows about you.
Most premium people search accounts provide access to web archives, which may help you discover the dormant email and forum accounts mentioned earlier.
4. Facebook and Google know your shopping habits
If you have recently Googled an item to buy, you have probably spotted similar offers in your Facebook newsfeed.
That’s because the two platforms work together to learn your shopping habits and show you items you might be interested in buying.
This isn’t necessarily bad, especially if you are in a hurry to replace a short-circuited household appliance.
5. YouTube knows what you watch
Like Facebook and Google, YouTube builds your viewer profile based on the videos you’ve searched.
This isn’t something you should worry about, as long as your password is strong enough. Heads up: don’t use your Google account to sign in to YouTube.
6. Booking sites know your payment details
Travel and booking sites usually store your credit card’s number, expiry date, CVC, and a scanned copy of your ID.
Although this information never appears in a standard Google search, no website is 100% hacker-proof.Be extra careful to deactivate such accounts as soon as you stop using them.
7. Control what the Web knows about you
As long as you use the Internet, you’ll keep on leaving a data trail. The important thing is to always be in control of what information you share online.
The three pillars of Internet browsing hygiene are: always close disused accounts, regularly change passwords,and never interconnect accounts.