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How to delete your digital footprint (at least most of it)

Delete online footprint
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Had another of the online world and want to know how to delete your digital footprint? The internet has become the main showcase for many creatives to get their work seen, and building a strong social media presence can potentially help you reach an audience that would have been impossible in the past. But it's not all so rosy. There are plenty of reasons that you might be concerned about how much data you've shared online.

More and more people are becoming concerned about leaving themselves open to hackers and cyber attacks, while some people are simply tired of how much time they spend online on social media and prefer to be rid of it. Well, in the guide, we'll show just how to delete your digital footprint – or at least most of it.

If you're not yet sure of how social media could actually help your creative business, see our guides to the best social media platforms for artists, and how to sell on Instagram. And for inspiration, you might also want to see our pick of some of the most distinct brand Instagram feeds

Sure you want out? Well, ex-hacker @somenerdliam shared some clear, simple tips in a Twitter post entitled 'How to delete 99.9% of your digital footprint from the internet' – and it went viral gaining 101K retweets and more than 400K likes. The advice won't allow you to disappear completely (the author admits his knowledge isn't completely up to date, and the "99.9%" claim in his title isn't meant to be measured accuracy), but his tips are a good starting point for monitoring your digital hygiene. We think his information is vital for anyone looking to remove their data trail, so we'll share some of his tips below.

01. Find your old emails

A person typing on keyboard

(Image credit: Kaitlyn Baker)

The first thing you'll need to do to be able to follow the following tips for how to delete your digital footprint is to make sure you have access to your old email accounts. Our email accounts (if we haven't deleted all our old emails) are huge repositories of information on our past digital actions since almost every online account that we sign up for will result in a confirmation email being sent. Many of us have switched email accounts over the years, so you'll want to make sure that you still have access to any old accounts. This may require requesting password resets.

02. Delete online accounts you don't use

How many accounts have you subscribed to over the years? And how many do you still use? Most of us sign up for hundreds of online accounts, for everything from online banking to social media platforms, ecommerce sites, newspapers, apps and sundry freebies offered online in exchange for a little bit of data. 

@somenerdliam suggests wading back through years of emails and closing all those forgotten unused accounts. A functional way to search for these accounts is to hit your email folders and search for phrases like "'sign up' or 'Welcome'. You might also want to see our guide to how to delete an Instagram account for details of how to disappear from the popular social media platform.

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03. Check if you've been compromised

There have been several high-profile mass data hacks in recent years, in which thousands of passwords and other details on sometimes major websites have been compromised. There are platforms that exist to check if your own data may have been exposed at some point. @somenerdliam suggests searching Google and using the site haveibeenpwned.com

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Stop Google from tracking you

Google gathers a huge amount of data on users of all of its software and services – and it's legal because we click OK to allow it. If you want to delete your digital footprint, it's time to stop Google from listening.

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06. Use a VPN

@somenerdliam suggests using a VPN to disguise yourself online. A virtual private network helps you stay private online by establishing a secure, encrypted connection between your computer and the internet. It's a personal preference, but a lot of people are finding there are security benefits to using one. You can find the right one for you in our guide to the best VPN service.

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Dom Carter is a freelance writer who specialises in art and design. Formerly a staff writer for Creative Bloq, his work has also appeared on Creative Boom and in the pages of ImagineFX, Computer Arts, 3D World, and .net. He has been a D&AD New Blood judge, and has a particular interest in picture books.

With contributions from