Ask Leo: How do I block people from finding information about me on the internet?


By Leo Notenboom

How do I block people from finding me and information about me on
the internet? I want to erase myself from the internet. How do I stop
my name and my information from showing when people google me or search
for me on the internet?

This is, sadly, an extremely common question. I say sadly, because
the answer is both disappointingly complex, and ultimately

The short answer is very, very simple: you don’t.

The longer answer involves understanding how little control you have,
what steps you can try, and how effective they may or may not

I want to start with something else: prevention. Prevention is
really the only cure, and even then it’s not at all complete.

Assume that everything you put on the internet will remain there
forever, and will be viewed in the worst possible light. Let’s be
clear, I’m not saying that it will be there forever, or that
it will be viewed in the worst possible, light. What I’m
saying is that that’s the safest way to view how what you say, do and post
in public might be used. To the extent that you have control
about what goes on the web before it goes up, exercise caution, with
those two phrases as your guide: “forever”, and “in the worst possible

Don’t quite feel like posting those party photos now do you?

And that leads to the most common example we hear about all the
time: someone losing a job or job offer because they spoke their mind
in a public post, or posted unflattering photos of themselves, or
otherwise made public information that they ultimately regretted.
Information that their employer eventually found that impacted their

It happens all the time.

One of the counter arguments is along the lines of “I should be able
to post and say and do whatever I want.” Freedom of speech, and all

Absolutely. You’re very right. Go ahead. Post and say what you like.
In most countries you have the right to say pretty much whatever you
like. Just remember that freedom of speech does not mean freedom
from consequences

Because chances are you’re not going to get whatever it is removed
from the internet.

And even preventing what you do may not be enough. What about other
sources of information that might relate to you?

You can’t control what others say or post about you. (Within the
legal limits of harassment, libel and slander, of course, and even then
within the limits of your own legal or justice system and your

Have you perhaps been mentioned in a newspaper? Listed in publicly
accessible government or organization records? Do you participate in
discussion groups that are visible and/or archived publicly?

All of these are ways you can show up online. I’m sure that there
are plenty more.

And most all are places from which you probably can’t remove

But I know you want to try, so let’s see what we can do.

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Leo Notenboom

Leo A. Notenboom is the owner of Puget Sound Software, LLC and the Leo in Ask Leo!. Leo has been in the personal computer and software industry since 1979, as a software engineer, a manager of software engineers, and as a consultant. In 1983 Leo joined what was then a medium sized local company called Microsoft and spent the next 18 years in a wide variety of groups working on a wide variety of software. If you're running Microsoft Windows, if you've used a Microsoft development tool or Microsoft Money, or if you've ever purchased a ticket through Expedia, there's a good chance you've been touched by some of his work. And of course, since 2003, Leo has been answering your tech questions on Ask Leo!

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