None of us willingly share our personal information with strangers, but almost everything we do online involves filling out endless forms and providing details about ourselves to others. And these are meticulously recorded by companies, sold and then repurposed by advertisers, spam companies, and even malicious third parties.
In this article, we look at how to remove your personal details from the web and show you what you can do to stay safe in the future.
Why You Should Remove Your Phone Number from the Web
If you share your mobile phone number online – whether via social media, in a web forum, or by filling out a delivery form when online shopping – you’re giving other people the opportunity to store and reuse your personal information.
And if you use a mobile number for business purposes, then you’ll find your number ends up in all kinds of official and unofficial registries. So, how do you get your phone number off the internet?
While there’s no single way to scrape your personal information from the world wide web once it’s out there, we’ll show you step-by-step how to find and delete any publicly listed personal information.
Step 1: Remove Phone Numbers from Websites Where You Register with Them
It sounds obvious, but your first step should be to make a quick list of all the social media sites like Facebook, Instagram, and TikTok which ask you to provide a mobile phone number when you sign up.
Most of these have options to remove your personal details or at least make them not publicly visible. Facebook in particular, after it came under fire for its obscure and inappropriate data usage policies, has now made it much easier to see what information is stored about you on its servers.
Step 2: Close Old or Unused Accounts
Still have a MySpace account that you never deleted? You might not believe it, but MySpace still exists with an active domain and, while it claims to have ‘lost’ all data prior to 2016, you can bet your bottom dollar that all your personal data is tucked away somewhere.
And it’s not alone, plenty of older websites may no longer be widely used, but their data banks are full of millions of old users’ personal data. Make sure you close down all of these accounts and request that your data be deleted.
Step 3: Find Your Number Using Google
Once you’ve been through all the obvious candidates who might be storing your mobile phone number online, like Facebook, the next thing to do is a quick Google search.
You’ll be surprised just how much information about you is publicly available once you start typing in your details. Just make sure you do this in incognito mode so as to prevent the browser from tracking your keystrokes.
When looking for your phone number, you should try different formats:
– (415) xxx-yyyy, 415xxxyyyy and +1415xxxyyy
– Your full name plus phone number
– Your company name or address plus phone number
Try out all sorts of different combinations and, when you find a match, either request that the website remove your details from their registry or use a privacy company and reputation management firm to find and remove these data points.
Step 4: Remove Phone Numbers from Data Collection Sites
As you may already be aware, there are a host of companies that exist solely to collect and resell your data. That means you won’t necessarily find your information listed publicly on Google.
These data brokers frequently scrape personal information from public records – both physical and digital – and compile it all into a private database which they then sell access to. While this is in a grey area legally speaking, plenty of companies do it including Spokeo, Intelius, BeenVerified, Whitepages, MyLife, and Radaris. So make sure you check those ones first.
Step 5: Forbid Apps from Collecting Your Mobile Phone Number
Whenever you download and install an app, it will ask to be granted access to certain features on your mobile phone. Most of the time these are necessary for the app to function. For example, Whatsapp asks for access to your photos so that you can send and share them with your contacts.
However, a lot of the times an app will ask for access to data that it doesn’t need for operational purposes. Instead, it will just collect that data and either sell it or use it to advertise products to you.
Fortunately, if you go into your phone settings you can easily adjust what type of data and functions that each app is given permission for.
Step 6: Learn How to Hide Your Mobile Phone Number Online
Of course, the best way to keep your personal details and mobile number from being shared online is to avoid it being visible or giving it away in the first place!
But what if you want to sign up to a social media sight or go online shopping? Well, fortunately, there’s now a quick and easy way to create a second phone number to use whenever you are online.
CoverMe is a free downloadable private messaging and calling app that provides you with as many disposable phone numbers as you need. It’s available on Android and iPhones and uses military-grade security features to keep you safe in all areas of your online life.
For example, with CoverMe’s encrypted messaging and calling service, you can communicate with people in total anonymity without ever having to give out your personal details. And you can use the disposable numbers that CoverMe provides to call regular numbers in the US, Canada, and China, even if the other person doesn’t have the CoverMe app.
In addition to helping you hide your mobile phone number and keep it off the internet, CoverMe has a whole host of other security features to help you take your privacy to the next level:
– Personal Vault. CoverMe provides a private, encrypted vault with a four-digit password for you to store any and all of your sensitive information. Files, photos, videos – you name it, CoverMe can protect it. And, it even lets you set up decoy passwords to track people who are trying to break into the vault.
– Private Chat. Another great feature is the private chatting groups. These use end-to-end encryption and let you send files, photos, and videos to your friends over a secure network.
– Self-Destructing Messages. To keep your details and communications from being stored on other devices, you can have them self-destruct once they’ve been read.
– Disguise and Hide. CoverMe can disguise itself as a newsreader app to ensure that no one can identify it on your mobile phone and snoop through your messages.
The CoverMe app is trusted by millions of users worldwide. To make sure you stay safe online and prevent your mobile phone number being shared, download CoverMe here.