Managing Your Personal Information

It’s sometimes difficult to know where your personal internet information resides or how sites collect it. Although it’s not a pleasant exercise, it’s wise to periodically examine your list of websites (such as those you have bookmarked) to see what data they have collected. Because websites collect information every time we visit them. 

If we could, it would be best to roll back the calendar and begin using the Internet before personal data was collected without one’s knowledge. But of course that’s impossible. Our options are few: we can ask specific websites to remove our data, and we can be cautious when we give our personal info to new websites. Neither of these is easy. Most internet transactions require a valid mailing address and valid credit card number. 

For European Union citizens, the “right to be forgotten” is a requirement of the GDPR. In the U.S., California has a similar law. However, the burden is on you to request your info be permanently deleted. Deleting personal data is important for these key reasons:

  1. 1. Bad actors often steal, sell, or use your information in ways that could impact you in the future
  2. 2. Aggregating data from various sources can create a profile about your spending, eating, and travel choices—stopping at a specific coffee shop each morning, buying diapers, and visiting Los Angeles every month.

New browsing services allow visits and purchases to occur without the website knowing your true identity. It’s similar to physically visiting a store and paying in cash. Apple Pay/iCloud+ is one example. Google has a similar service. 

Finally, if you don’t frequent a particular website anymore, you should consider deleting your account. You may consider that a nuclear option, but it may be the most powerful tool we have to protect our personal information.