MANILA, Philippines – Recently, Snapchat announced new restrictions for app-building policies. In particular, the company has banned anonymous messaging apps and is limiting friend-finding apps to adult users aged 18 and over.
Various services collect data about a user’s age, location, phone numbers, and other details. The easiest way to check what personal information is available publicly is to Google yourself.
Kaspersky experts have created a detailed guide on how to keep personal data private and limit the amount available on the web.
How can users reduce the number of personal information on the web?
The best place to start is with social media. Social media platforms hold a lot of personal data that users may want to keep private, including phone numbers, bank accounts, home location etc.
The first step is to check and edit the account’s privacy settings. Users can switch their profile to private, which will hide it from search engines and strangers.
How to check an account’s privacy settings:
There are several ways to make an account private. If users just want to hide their profile from Facebook search, they need to click the “Settings” button on the profile dashboard and then select “Privacy” settings. They will then see the option “Search for me on Facebook”. If this is set up for “Everyone”, the user’s name and account can be found by everyone across Facebook. To hide their profile from Facebook search, they switch this option to “No one”.
Additionally, users can hide their accounts from search engines like Bing or Google. To do this, they need to go to “Privacy” settings and then click on “Public Search”. They can then tick or untick the “Enable public search” box.
Users can also decide and limit who can see their photos and personal information, such as their current and previous jobs, marital status, school and university information. Users can make this information private through their “Settings” as well.
Private Twitter accounts can’t be found on Twitter or by search engines, like Google and Bing.
To make an account private, users need to click on the “Privacy and Safety” tab on the “Settings” page. Then choose “Protect your Tweets”.
Users can also hide their posting locations for Tweets. This option can also be set through the “Privacy and Safety” tab.
When an Instagram account is made private, users’ posts are only available to their followers and any of their posts’ hashtags are hidden from search.
To do this, users need to click on the “Settings” button on the menu. Then select “Privacy” and click the “Private account” button.
What can users do to hide themselves from Google services?
A good place to start is by deleting any cache information. Google robots regularly crawl web pages and store data on the server. This information is stored for some time, but after a month or two it is automatically deleted.
There are some helpful links that can assist with cache clearance, such as Google Remove Information Assistant, Remove Illegal Content Wizard and Remove Images from Google Search Results.
After erasing any personal information, it’s worth Googling oneself again after a few months to make sure the cache and other data has been cleared.
What if users need to delete any specific information from the web?
To delete specific obsolete information, users need to visit a particular Google link. They should copy the URL of the outdated page in the search bar, which is shown in the top line of the browser. After doing so, they can request deletion by clicking on the appropriate button.
If users find any personal data on a website, they can contact the administration of the website and ask them to clear the sensitive information.
If users don’t want to wait for resource management to clear their data, they can open the service Just Delete Me, enter the name of the site they want to remove their data from and select it from the search results. The service will then redirect users to the profile elimination page.
What else can users do to hide personal data from the web?
It’s also worth it for users to check if any of their personal information is on data broker sites and to hide themselves from these sites to protect their accounts and avoid data breaches.
For this user should, firstly, check if any personal information is on data broker sites or the darknet. Data brokers are services that collect various types of personal data, analyze it and then send it to other companies.
To check for any data leaks and the security status of personal information, there are special services or comprehensive security solutions that can be used. These security services monitor various platforms, including the darknet, for any possible leaks. If they find one, they immediately let the user know.
Data brokers collect data such as:
Bank account details
Online purchase history
Credit card information
Social media data
Social Security numbers
If users suspect their data was leaked to data brokers or the darknet:
It’s important that they change passwords on all accounts and set up multi-factor authentication
They should write to data broker platforms, like Equifax or Experian, and ask them to delete all personal information. It may take some time but their sensitive data will be cleared.
They need to check the security of bank accounts. Users should read their credit card statements and check for any suspicious transactions.
“We are all different in how we approach data privacy, as well as our needs and requirements in this area. There are people who are nowhere to be found virtually on the Internet and then there are those who document every step of their lives on social media. However, at some point in life, we might want to know what the web knows about us and limit the amount of data that is available to the public. That is why it is a good idea to search your name in search engines and find out what other people can see about you. It may also be worth asking search engines, such as Google, to notify you when new mentions of your name appear on the internet by subscribing to alerts. Awareness of how our data is collected, where it resides, who can access it, and what we can do to control and hide it is extremely important for our security both now and in the future,” comments Vladislav Tushkanov, cybersecurity expert at Kaspersky.