privacy checklist

Guide

DATA REMOVAL WORKSHEET​

When removing your data from the internet the goal is to remove anything.  The main problem is identifying all the data that is searchable when there are often minor mistakes, outdated information or unknown sources exposing information you want to keep private.  The goal of this section is to help identify as many sources of information as possible for removal.

The best person to identify your personal data is you.  Only you can know what information that could put you at risk or not is a huge advantage to securing your privacy.  It is your life and your information.

Organize and Identify Your Information

The goal of going through this data discovery process is to identify potential data that might pose a risk to your privacy.   You can spend as much time on your investigation as you see fit.  Some of the data you find will be resolved by opt’ing out or removal of your data from a service.  Other potential data sources will have to be addressed with more in-depth data removal methods.

Tip – Keep track of your data, when you make opt-out requests and when to follow up.

Moleskine 18 month planner is my favourite notebook to track and record data and removal targets.

Brain Dump

Use this Brain Dump outline as a starting point to help identify data that would cause privacy concerns.  Don’t just focus on identifying the information that you want to be removed, focus on the information that could be found in a search.  Some data sources you may want to keep or just need minor changes to ensure your privacy.  Other data sources might cause larger privacy concerns which will be the focus of the data removal. 

  • Legal Name
    • Name on your birth certificate or legal documents
  • Names you go by
    • Nicknames
    • Different spellings (Tim, Timmy, Timothy) 
  • Email Address
    • Current Email address
    • School  Email Address
    • Past Email addresses that you have used
      • Note the dates of use of past accounts
  • Current Employment
    • Work Email
    • Work Phone Number
    • Work Address
  • Any information listed on your company’s public website
  • Professional Clubs
    • LinkedIn
    • Associations or groups you belong to
    • Certifications or Boards you belong to
  • School / Education
    • Any schools, colleges, or education that are associated with you
  • Cell Phone Number
  • Work Phone Number
    • Direct or Department Number
    • Main Number
  • Past Phone Numbers
    • Parents or Family numbers
    • Any phone number used for contact in the past
  • Current Physical Address
  • Past Physical Addresses
  • Any Physical Address you have received mail
    • Family or Friends
  • States you have lived in
  • Social Media Accounts you use
    • Email and Phone associated with each account
    • Username or Alias used for each account
    • List any location data provided to each account
  • Past social media accounts
    • Email and Phone associated with each account
    • Username or Alias used for each account
    • List any location data provided to each account
  • Dating or Services 
    • Email and Phone associated with each account
    • Username or Alias used for each account
    • List any location data provided to each account
  • Past Dating Services Used
    • Email and Phone associated with each account
    • Username or Alias used for each account
    • List any location data provided to each account

Data Search

Now that you have a list of your data it is time to identify your privacy exposure and identify targets for data removal.  Some data identified might be acceptable and not considered a privacy issue.  While others will have a higher concern for you.  We suggest recording the following information when going through your data discovery.

*Example*
Search Method:   
Google Search
Site/Service Identified:  example.com or Social-Media
Link to data: 
https://www.example.com/Jan-Smith?loaded=1
Severity (1-5):
3

Social Media Search

Instant User Name Search
Instant Username Search searches over 100 social media sites to see if the username is taken.  Using your list of usernames from the Brain Dump section, search each one and note what sites where the username is taken.

Knowem?
Knowem has a free search that extends beyond social media to more commercial based social media platforms such as music or publishing services.  Use the free search and focus on any areas where you may have created an account.

Search Engine Recon

I would argue Search Engines are the most powerful information sources on the internet.  Indexing and categorizing almost everything on the internet and it available through a simple search.  The issue is that when searching through that much data you need to “speak” the search engine’s language to deliver what you want.  This is called “Dorking”.

A “dork” is nothing more than a way of phrasing your query in a way a search engine can understand.  Use the following examples to do a search to find sites sharing your personal data.  Use different combinations of your data that you gathered above.

There are more Search Engines than Google!  Search with each of these top six Search Engines.

Search By Name

“FirstName Middle LastName” 
“FirstName  LastName”
“NickName Middle LastName”  
“NickName LastName”

Search By Name and City

“FirstName Middle LastName” city
“FirstName  LastName” city
“NickName Middle LastName” city
“NickName LastName” city

Personal Searches
“phone-number”
“email-address” 
“username”
“alias”
“legal-name” school

Search for email addresses specific provider
FirstName LastName “@gmail.com”
nickname “@gmail.com”
alias “@gmail.com”

(substitute @gmail.com for different providers)

Search for email addresses
FirstName LastName “@gmail.com”
nickname “@gmail.com”
alias “@gmail.com”

(substitute @gmail.com for different providers)

Search by Name and State

“FirstName Middle LastName” state
“FirstName  LastName” state
“NickName Middle LastName”  state
“NickName LastName” state

Search By Name and zipcode

“FirstName Middle LastName” city
“FirstName  LastName” city
“NickName Middle LastName” city
“NickName LastName” city

Search for email addresses by name/alas
FirstName LastName “@” “.com”
nickname “@” “.com”
alias “@” “.com”

(substitute @.com for .gov, .edu)

Want to learn more about Google Dorking?  Here are some sites we recommend.

Reverse Image Search

Pictures of yourself posted on the internet via social media, online publications, resumes or even a personal blog are indexed just like everything else on the internet.  A decade ago, searching for a picture would be a time-consuming process but now with the power of artificial intelligence, its as simple as uploading a photo.  

Why does reverse image searching pose a threat?   Your image is unique to you (mostly) and searching by your image can lead directly to your social media, work profile or information associated with a found picture.  

It is important to know what information your photos on the internet are providing.

Check out our Reverse Image Search Guide for a complete list of reverse image services and techniques.

Final Check

You should now have identified personal data and possible connections of data that is related to you.  You should also have a list of potential sites, services or social media that will help with your data removal.