Online tools that help you remove your digital footprint

It follows this with a link to dispatch a message invoking the “right to be forgotten” by the business.

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If you were to search for your name on Google right now, you might find links popping up that you weren’t even aware were associated with your name. Upon request, the search engine must remove the links to these web pages. Regular internet users are generally aware of the volume of data collected through social media, but that is just the tip of the iceberg. Based on a study conducted by privacy start-up Mine on 30,000 of its users, an average user’s emails indicated they were in the databases of 350 companies at least. 

Data is the fuel that drives business growth, but businesses often keep the data for longer than they should or derive it in unethical ways. The common data collected includes your name, phone number, email, home address and even your age, gender, interests, real-time location, friends and behaviour on webpages. But given the rise in privacy concerns, many countries have introduced laws that allow citizens to request their data be deleted under the “right to be forgotten”. But how can you do so?

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Use safer browsers

Google is notorious for selling the massive data and profiling collected on the platform. Despite the search engine promising to protect user data, it does sell ads against the profile it creates. A few alternatives are Firefox, Brave and Duck Duck Go. Firefox is a great alternative for web browsing for privacy with its ‘Enhanced Tracking Protection’ that automatically blocks online trackers. Similarly, Duck Duck Go does not track user activity and open tabs and your browsing history can be deleted with a tap. These also include a signal ‘Global Privacy Control’ that sends your “do not sell” preference directly to websites you visit. 

Data deletion services

While consumers can manually go to websites and ask for their data to be deleted, it is tedious. And more than not, they may be unaware of just how many places their data is stored in. Owing to privacy concerns, a few start-ups and companies have introduced data deletion tools where the institutions track and delete your data upon request. Analytics India Magazine has listed the top data deletion services. 

Delete Me

Founded in 2011, DeleteMe’s easy-to-use tools allow customers to control what personal information companies can access and remove their information from the search results. Additionally, the server checks through hoops every few months to ensure the name hasn’t been re-added. Delete Me charges $129 per year for their service. 

Try it here.

Data privacy manager

Data privacy manager claims to be the “only GDPR compliant, end-to-end automation of personal data removal”. The manager automatically instructs different systems on data deletion and allows the user to define what data they want to be retained and removed under various categories. 

Data Privacy Manager essentially answers the questions of “WHICH data subject’s data needs to be removed?” and “WHEN this data needs be removed”?

Try it here.

Mine

One of the most popular data deletion services, Israeli start-up Mine, goes through your old email messages and identifies past accounts that have agreed to receive marketing messages. It follows this with a link to dispatch a message invoking the “right to be forgotten” by the business—this sends a trigger email to the company in question to fulfil the request and delete the data. According to Mine’s data, it has shared 130,000 requests in less than a month of operation.

Try it here. 

Rightly

Rightly allows users to send data deletion requests through the service easily. The essential steps users need to follow include searching for the company in question, entering basic information to identify you and sending a deletion request. Upon sending the request, you will be connected to the companies that will start the procedure from thereon. “After the company has received your request, they have to reply in full within 30 days or give a valid reason for asking for an extension. However, we’re glad to say that most companies normally reply within a week,” Rightly states. 

Try it here. 

Ontrack

Ontrack provides consumers with a secondary verification. The data erasure verification service works as independent audits to the data deletion process, ensuring that the requested information is effectively destroyed. The process is seen by data recovery engineers who guarantee against any information or security breaches and promise to erase your data in compliance with privacy regulations.

Try it here.

Privacy bot

Privacy bot is a free and open-source alternative to data deletion services. Essentially a smart email routing tool, the Privacy bot allows you to send data to delete requests to several companies from your own email. The tool was created at the School of Information, Berkeley, and their deliverables include user experience research reports about current CCPA processes and feedback and sharable insights about the request process.

Try it here.

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Avi Gopani
Avi Gopani is a technology journalist that seeks to analyse industry trends and developments from an interdisciplinary perspective at Analytics India Magazine. Her articles chronicle cultural, political and social stories that are curated with a focus on the evolving technologies of artificial intelligence and data analytics.

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