First published on 19 Dec 2012. Updated on 19 Dec 2012.
We spoke to a reputable bloke within the internet security industry – who asked to remain anonymous, as most experts in such fields do – to guide us through erasing an online presence.
“First off the Internet only knows what you have told it (or what others have told it about you)," says Mr X, "and it will never forget." So where do we start blurring its memory?
"Close down all your social media accounts, and track down and delete any forum posts you have ever made. See what Google – or any other search engine – knows about you and then go about removing what they have indexed."
Great. So... Poof! We're gone, right? Not quite. "Even once you remove it, Google may cache a copy of that information for a while. You may have some luck asking Google to remove the search result if you can prove the website is violating some privacy law but more often than not you're stuck. So the next step is to hire someone to try and use 'Search Engine Optimisation' techniques to manipulate the search engine results so that the offending result pointing to your personal information is buried low down in the search results list under a heap of other links.”
Mr X says that it's pretty easy to just not have a real online identity in the first place. “Just use fake info for everything." But if you’re on the run, or in hiding, hunkered up with this copy of Time Out and a rap sheet as long as a freshly opened toilet roll, you're in less luck. “It's a little more difficult to evade law enforcement and other organisations with telecommunications interception powers. Even photos can be traced as some cameras and phones store the GPS co-ordinates in the actual image.”
For those without a rap sheet... “Just don't give any site any real information, use fake information when signing up to websites or creating social media websites. Tell your friends who you are and leave it at that. Keep meatspace and online separate.”
Er, "meatspace"? OK...