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Old August 29th, 2021, 11:01 AM #1
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How to Limit Personal Information Online

This is a long post. Its a topic that I have wanted to tackle in my life for a long time, but didnít know how and where to start. Like scheduling a colonoscopy, It just lingered in the background, below the daily more important and less unpleasant things that needed to be done. I'm certain there will be better sources of information than I could share in this post. I'm also certain that there are members here who are IT experts and who are keenly aware of the scope of this problem and also the work that's necessary to protect yourself and or your personal information. This post however is for the guy like me, that doesn't work in IT, and who didn't think it was possible or worth the effort to even consider doing.

My awareness was elevated a few weeks ago when I listened to a podcast about the Woman who was walking her dog in central park when she was confronted by a man who was upset that her dog was unleashed. LINK The story and the video he posted online went viral. The woman, Amy Cooper, was blasted on MSM as a racist. She was fired from her job, her dog was taken, she was charged with Filing a False Police report and the Manhattan District Court. She and her family received multiple death threats.

Admittedly, when I first saw the video, I probably fell into the camp of believing the MSM story without questioning the narrative. This women was a racist Karen and she deserved to be burned at the stake. Due Process be damned. However, after listening to the podcast, it's clear that there is more to this story. Regardless on where you fall in your judgment of her actions, death threats made against her and her family are serious business.
if you are not into the podcast thing, you can read a more serious, in depth account of the story, what was buried by the MSM, and the aftermath on this woman life here: The Real Story of "The Central Park Karen"

So the wheels started spinning a bit, because within 30 minutes of the infamous video being posted, people were marching in front of her home. What is worse was that her EXTENDED family was also getting calls almost immediately.

Last Thursday I had an altercation with someone through work. This person threatened one of my employees and then me. I usually am able to calm things down but in this case things got heated very quickly and culminated in the person making a death threat. The police were called and responded immediately. Nothing more serious happened.

However after the police left, I couldn't help thinking that this exact incident is the type of thing that could have gotten even more out of hand. Aside from the fact that verbal conflicts can escalate info physical conflicts, which thankfully didn't happen. The risk of being painted a fascist, racist or whatever the flavor of social media ire of the day becomes, is real. I certainty lost my cool and was involved in a bit of a verbal screaming match. I cannot recall every single word that I said, but I would guess that if someone had recorded that event and posted some out of context elements online, I might have been perceived as the aggressor. Who knows what makes videos will go viral, and who knows what motivates people to DOX someone and post their personal info online, but let's just say that had such a video been posted, some of those boxes would have been checked.

In light of the Central Park Karen Story and the events that happened to me on Thursday, I realized one thing for sure. Even well mannered even tempered people can find themselves in a situation where they can be quickly mischaracterized and slandered. The threat of being doxxed is real. The circumstances which can occur, has less to do with the character of the targets actions and everything to do with internet activist obtaining likes and followers at your (and your families) expense.


Now what can I do to protect myself and my family is the 64,000 question. I'm not a fool, and I realize that anyone with enough time, dedication and resources are likely going to be able to find out anything they want about me and my family. But I also realize that even if they can quickly find my home address and personal information, I want to still make it as difficult as possible. I find myself thinking more about my family and extended family. The thing that struck me from the Karen interview was how she was so worried that her elderly parents would be harassed. She said that she told them to lie and say she actually was not their daughter. My parents are in their mid 70's and I surely don't want trouble makers showing up at their home with pitchforks. My kids are charting their own paths and careers, so I want to try and protect their privacy too. My brother lives in another state and is also a business owner and could be easily targeted if someone one day decided that I was the enemy SWJ warriors in his home state.

I also realize that there is probably no easy way to really eliminate all sources of information without dramatically altering my life, altering my online behavior, and also convincing my wife and relatives to alter their online behavior too. I should probably reduce the amount of posts here on MDS too. For the time being that's probably not in the cards. The point is that simply doing nothing about the problem also doesn't make sense.

So I've started doing SOMETHING. Thanks to other MDS members responding to my Burner Phone thread last week someone had discussed the book Extreme Privacy: What it takes to disappear I did not buy the book, but I may do so. For now I went to the authors website inteltechniques.com, where I discovered he hosts a weekly podcast. One of his most recent podcast discussed this very topic Episode 230 Personal Data Removal I listened to this episode and then found that the author also has a free Online workbook that pretty muc walks you through this process.

So like so many other things in my life the MDS community lead me to a real shortcut in this whole process. If you are interested in this topic or are considering taking these actions, checkout the podcast and the workbook. I wont be able to explain everything, because I still am learning myself, but Michael Bazell explains that there are about 10 large Data Scraping companies that essentially scan online public records and create their own searchable databases. They sell this information online. Then there are about 110 other lesser well known data brokers, who either buy data from the big brokers and also resell the info. He explains that most of these companies how online pages where individuals can "OPT-OUT" or request removal of their personal information. What is astounding is that he has compiled and maintains an updated list of over 120 of these companies, with direct links to the page used to remove info.

Last night I started the process of requesting removals. As Michael suggests I started with the Big 10. Each company has a different process but they are all MOSTLY the same. You enter your fist and last name and you will see a list of any matching records. You select which specific record(s) is yours then request it's removal from the database. However I found that some companies had my father's name listed at my home address and my name and family listed at their address. In other examples, my name with middle initial was listed as a separate record than without the middle initial. On most of these sites, you have to submit a request to delete each record. Also my name appears in records for my wife, children, my parents and my brothers. So I requested any record, even if it was my parents to be removed, if it included my name or personal information. So in some cases I am making 10-30 individual removal requests for each of the sites visited. Also there are a few sites which do NOT have an online opt-out/removal page. For those sites, Michael provides the email address where you can formally request information be removed. For these companies, I copied the actual HTML page links that included the info I wanted removed, then I created an email template and submitted the request. I also created a spreadsheet to keep track of each company I have contacted for each name I want deleted. After about 6 hours of work yesterday that sheet has 72 individual removal request that I'm tracking.

This morning, I've received some email responses indicating the information has been removed. I've checked those sites and indeed my name no longer shows up in the search. So that's good I guess. In the podcast Bazzell suggest that after you make your initial batch of request to the big 10, you want about 30 days and then go back and confirm the information has been removed. Then after this initial batch, you can start going down the long list of the other data brokers. He explains that some of those companies, do not maintain their own data, but simply query the requested data from the big 10, in real time, then present it as their own.

The good thing is that most of this work can be done while sitting on the couch and watching TV.

I'll update this thread as this process continues.

Like everything else I post here, I consider myself a student who is just trying to learn from the experiences that others with more knowledge are willing to share. If anyone has already undertaken this process and can offer more tips, I'm interested. I'm also always interested in discussing these types of topics in general.
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Old August 29th, 2021, 11:13 AM #2
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Old August 29th, 2021, 11:28 AM #3
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Great thread. I'd be game to do that. It would not be 100% though as to much is public record.

mdjudiciarycasesearch
mdlandrec.net
sdat
are just a few places you won't be able to touch. But I do see the value in maintaining anonymity online for sure.

Look at some peoples screen names. You should for example not be able to google a screen name and have it come back to any other account you have in an online search. Hence the name "randomuser". I'm just a random computer user. No need to make it something like Mike8291977 or something that comes back to my rl google account and then to my facebook. To many don't understand the very basics and tbh just 15 yrs ago it did not matter. Now it matters.

Thanks for posting this. I think I might give myself a web sweep sometime in the near future.
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Old August 29th, 2021, 11:38 AM #4
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User name selection is a big part. I came across a user name on line that provide a bit of details. In general conversation, I was able to obtain their general location and job the person does. With about 45 seconds of searching the internet their FB, IG, Linkdin, etc was all located.

Rather scary really and something parents should be aware of. This was a video game chat that provided the basis for all this info. The person was not shy about sharing, almost to the point where I thought they might have created an alter persona on-line as a cover...but that's very unlikely.

As far as removing yourself...good luck. If someone provided a fee based service that worked and kept up with everything, I'm sure it would be worth it. But as soon as Zaba or something gets "unlinked" there's a new one waiting around the corner.
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Old August 29th, 2021, 12:18 PM #5
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When i have time i will come back to this thread , i subscribed . I know in a google search my handle here comes up , i tried to get off FB but you can't once you sign up . I just changed my name to a small degree
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Old August 29th, 2021, 12:23 PM #6
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Old August 29th, 2021, 04:25 PM #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by randomuser View Post
Look at some peoples screen names. You should for example not be able to google a screen name and have it come back to any other account you have in an online search. To many don't understand the very basics and tbh just 15 yrs ago it did not matter. Now it matters.
You are right that 15yrs ago nobody really seriously worried about these things. I have some minimal email exposure as you describe but Iím working on changing that too. The process of changing email is even harder. I have one email address that Iíve used 23yrs. I use gmail for my general home communication. However thats going to change and Iím probably going to pay for ProtonMail and then begin changing the official email address used for personal business to a series of unique and non-descript names.
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Old August 29th, 2021, 04:51 PM #8
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A lot of opt out, click here emails just confirm they have a working email. Now if it is REALLY from your bank, use it. But if you can’t be 100% sure, delete it.

Google yourself in different ways. toolaa, tool aa, t aa, meaning like james, jim, jimmy etc, see what you come up with.
Google is used as verb. Use duck duck or dog pile, etc.

I had an hr person try to find pictures of me online to put in the company database a couple years ago. She found my linked in, that does not have a photo. She gave up. I still refused to have my photo in the DB. She was pissed that she couldn’t find anything and there was no written requirement that I had signed stated they could have and use my likeness.

I have always been careful of my online presence.
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Old August 29th, 2021, 05:41 PM #9
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Thank you. I have been wondering if this was even possible.
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Old August 30th, 2021, 04:24 PM #10
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To get rid of your digital imprint get a Lawyer, legally change your name, get a new SSN#, get new DR License with new name, sell your home, buy new home in new name, cash out of all banks and retirements, put your money in off shore accounts, get new doctors, move and live in Alaska, cut all ties with family, or do something real bad make a deal and get put in witness protection.

I todays world it is almost impossible to get rid of your digital imprint.
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