If you have decided that hiding from the Internet, or your physical and digital security are important to you, then you need to begin making decisions that support those goals. Not every method or technique is appropriate for everyone and you need to assess your threat model to determine what conveniences you are willing to compromise on to achieve a greater level of security. As I have said before, there is not one solution that is appropriate for everyone. Choose your own adventure.
My interest in removing information about myself that I saw online started several years ago. The career I chose came with a higher threat model than what most people have, and I wanted to find ways to protect my personal information. I was never comfortable knowing that anyone could Google me, and find my physical address. As with most people, there was a lot of personal information online when I started searching for myself. I wanted a lower profile, and I wanted to make it more difficult for someone with bad intentions to find information about me. I was also aware of the threats posed by identity thieves and breached data from reputable companies who were hacked. I didn’t want to fall victim to that sort of attack either.
While learning about removing information from online sources I discovered another area of interest that I had been dabbling in along that way. I didn’t know it at the time, but the techniques I had been learning were called OSINT (Open Source Intelligence). The more I learned about OSINT, which are methods of researching and finding information about people online, the more it helped me identify ways I could search for myself and remove that same information. I wrote a separate post about the fascinating subject of OSINT which can be seen here. My work with OSINT continues to this day, and I owe a great deal of my investigative skills in this area to Michael Bazzell.
For those that are just starting to learn more about digital security for themselves, there are some steps I recommend you take. First, realize that hiding from the Internet takes patience, persistence, and it can’t be achieved overnight. Also as I have said before, the benefits and results of doing it yourself as opposed to paying for a service to “remove you” are much more desirable. Keep in mind that anyone who has ever been good at anything, achieved those results because they took the time to learn the basic skills. A mastery of those basic skills is what separates an amateur from a professional. Ok, back off of my soapbox now, let’s continue.
Here is what I recommend if you are just getting started.
The most informative, easy to follow, and well written guide for becoming digitally invisible can be found in the following book. Invest in this book because it will become your study and reference material for years to come. This book has changed the lives of so many privacy conscious people, and helped them lead a safer existence. No compromise on this one, enough said.
THE COMPLETE PRIVACY & SECURITY DESK REFERENCE By Michael Bazzell and Justin Carroll
- This 492-page textbook will explain how to become digitally invisible. You will make all of your communications private, data encrypted, internet connections anonymous, computers hardened, identity guarded, purchases secret, accounts secured, devices locked, and home address hidden. You will remove all personal information from public view and will reclaim your right to privacy. You will no longer give away your intimate details and you will take yourself out of ‘the system’. You will use covert aliases and misinformation to eliminate current and future threats toward your privacy & security. When taken to the extreme, you will be impossible to compromise. Purchase on Amazon
Next, spend time using the Resources section of this website. That is where all the gems are. There are direct links to removal pages at various websites, tutorials on a variety of privacy related topics and entire websites dedicated to providing the latest in privacy and security news. Become of student of the game and learn all you can. As technology changes, so do the ways we have to protect ourselves against digital threats. Stay current on information and resources that are available and pass on what you learn to others.
One of the most important things you need to do in this quest for privacy is to change your future habits. Stop giving out your personal information, as discussed here and many other places. Make a habit of searching your information regularly to catch anything that you either missed or may have leaked online. Evaluate every decision you make with how it may affect your privacy and the hard work you achieved while going through the removal campaign. Never stop learning, I can’t stress that enough. There is a wealth of information available for those that are serious about their safety and security. It may seem all overwhelming at first, but it really is fun and addicting.
Lastly, I recommend hiring a private investigator to find you. Do your research and find someone you trust who can give you honest feedback on if they were able to locate you. They should also be willing to offer suggestions on how to cover your tracks if there are any. There are many aspiring OSINT detectives who may be willing to offer their services for minimal cost to help you out wit this. You can also join the privacy forum at Privacy-Training.com where there is a thread dedicated to like minded people who search for each other for the purpose of helping to identify vulnerabilities.
Good luck to you. I hope that in time you will come to enjoy seeing the “no results found” message during your self searches.