How to Remove Your Information from the Internet for Free:
The 2022 DIY Data Removal Guide
Paying someone to remove your data isn’t for everyone. If you are the DIY type and don’t mind doing to work yourself, here is a great place to start.
How to actually remove your data
In short, you need to visit each data broker and people search website and request they remove your data. There are approximately 200 of these websites, so this process is time consuming. We include a few lists of these sites at the end of this article to help you get started. Use a spreadsheet to track your progress for the different sites. And so you have an idea of the amount of time this could potentially take you, depending on how much of your data is out there, we estimate it will take someone around 30 hours to do this the first time. It is also suggested you do this every six months or so, since some of the website will add your data back if they find it somewhere else.
Opt out process overview
There are generally four different types of opt out processes that you will see on a people search or data broker website. For each of these types, you will go to the website first, find a link somewhere on their page that says “Opt out,” “Removal,” “Remove my personal information,” or something similar. You usually click that link and follow the instructions they give you. Here is a brief overview of the different processes you will come across:
- 1. Search for yourself from the main page, click a removal link on your record, then do their additional steps
- 2. Search for yourself from the main page, get the URL of your record, then submit it on the removal page, then do their additional steps
- 3. Search for yourself from the removal page, then click a link on your record, then do their additional steps
- 4. Submit your information on the removal page, then do their additional steps (this is a blind removal since you don’t get to see the record they have on you)
Most websites require you to take additional steps to complete your opt out. They vary by site, but some websites make it a hassle to remove your data. Here are some things you are going to come across in the process:
- Captchas! Lots and lots of captchas! Get ready to click on buses, chimneys, trucks, vehicles, crosswalks, fire hydrants, and more.
- Verify email address: Click a link in an email they send to you. Some website have multiple records for the same person and require you to use a unique email address for each.
- Verify phone number: Give them a valid phone number, answer when their robot calls you, enter the number shown on your screen
- Fake delays: Wait up to 2 minutes to get to your record while the website pretends to be searching their databases and scouring the web for your information
- VPN blocking: Some sites will block VPN’s, so if you use one, you may need to turn it off
- Send an email: Send an email requesting your record be removed.
- Money: Some sites require you to pay money to get your information removed. This is dirty.
Types of Records and how they make money
Not all data brokers or people search sites will show you what data they have for free. Here are the types of records you can find and how they make money. Some sites us a combination of the below tactics.
Blind removal - Some data brokers don’t allow you to purchase just one record. They often sell groups of records to businesses. For these types of sites, you have to submit your data blindly and hope they remove it if they have a record that matches.
Behind paywall - Some websites hide your information behind a paywall. You have to pay to see your record. Often it is $1 for a week of unlimited reports, then $30 a month after that.
Show all, refer to bigger site - Some websites will show you all the data they have for free. These sites often make money by showing you your record from a paid site that has more detail, and they get a commission if you buy from the bigger site. You have to remove your data from both sites to get it to stop showing up on this type of site.
Show all with ads – Some websites show you all the data they have while advertising to you.
Our list of 325 data brokers and people search websites
- Our How to Opt Out of the Top 10 Data Brokers Post
- Intel Techniques
- Yael Grauer
- Operation Privacy (you have to sign up to view)
Let us know where else
If you find a site that isn’t in one of these resources, let us know and we will add it.