Cyber hygiene is a reference to the practices and steps that computer users take to maintain system health and improve online security.
Why Cyber Hygiene Matters
The rise of search engines and information brokers make it incredibly easy to find personal details and contact information about nearly anyone. People with unique names are especially easy to find online. We recommend going through the following opt-out processes to begin removing the digital footprint of yourself and your family or other associated contacts. Unfortunately, many of these websites continuously sift through public records and various databases for updates, so we recommend repeating these processes at least every six months to ensure your information remains deleted. Incorporating these practices will become a habit and exercise is effective cyber hygiene.
For many of the opt-out procedures below, we recommend using an incognito browser to establish a burner email address (an email address you only use one time and is not permanently associated with your name). Our recommended website for this is Email on Deck. Create an email account with the steps below, and use this email address as many times as needed while following the opt-out processes below.
- Check the box that says “I’m a human.” A verification box will pop up.
- Type in the code or phrase displayed in the field marked “Your Answer” and hit “Submit.” Note that codes or phrases are case sensitive, and be sure to include any spaces or punctuation marks.
- Click “Get Email.”
- You’ll be redirected to your temporary inbox where you can receive and open emails.
- Copy the email address provided in the “Your private email” field and use this any time you’re asked to provide an email address during any of the opt-out processes.
- As you receive emails, open them as you would any other email.
- Close your tab or browser once you are done using this email address.
White Pages has grown from being a phone book to an online aggregator of contact details, family connections, and links to civil and legal records. White Pages is often one of the top search results returned when conducting an online search for someone. We recommend removing yourself and those listed as family and relatives.
Opt-out link: https://whitepages.com/suppression_requests
Family Tree Now brands itself as an online research and genealogy center but serves as an easy way to find contact details (including a history of previously known addresses) and family connections for basically anyone. We recommend opting out not only yourself but also family and other associated contacts listed (you may have to do this over the course of several sessions, and the site employs cookies to limit the number of opt-outs in one session.)
Opt-out link: https://www.familytreenow.com/optout
Been Verified is a public records search engine that claims to offer easy access to background checks, criminal history, and other personal records. We suggest opting out yourself and your family members.
Opt-out link: https://www.beenverified.com/f/optout/search
MyLife is an information broker that aggregates your contact details and attempts to report additional details, such as marital status, home value, political party affiliation, and more. They summarize all of this information in a “reputation score,” although these scores appear to be random. Unfortunately, MyLife does not make it easy to opt-out and requires you to send them an email that includes a link to the profile you wish to have removed. We suggest sending this email from a secondary email address (like an old Yahoo address that you only send junk mail to as opposed to your primary Gmail account or a burner email address).
Email address: [email protected]
I am a victim of identity theft. I demand that my personally identifiable information (PII), including the information below, be removed / opted out from your site and services, and all those that you own:
Name: John J. Smith or John Smith or Johnny Smith
Address: 1600 Pennsylvania Ave, Washington, DC
I demand this be removed within 30 days, or I will follow up with legal action.
Spokeo is similar to White Pages, although users usually have to pay a nominal fee (less than $2.00) for a “Full Name Report.” To remove yourself below, find your listing and enter it into the “URL” field found on the opt-out page linked below.Opt-out link: https://www.spokeo.com/optout