Deleting your personal data, like web searches, can be a daunting activity. You need to take it seriously. If you do not, then other people have the potential to find that data. Below, we break down how to better delete your personal data.
We have all been here, you're selling an old phone or tablet, or donating it to someone or some place. Regardless, the device is will no longer be in your possession. Because of this you want to be 100% sure everything is gone from said device. No body wants to find out their Facebook account was accessed from an old device being used by someone else.
Thankfully, most smartphones have made it relatively easy to securely wipe data from them. As long as your data has been encrypted, your data is protected. Most Android and iOS devices are encrypted right out of the box. Because your data is encrypted, factory resets make it almost impossible for any data to be recovered. Here's how your factory reset your devices:
Note: For either device, make sure you have all of your photos, music, or anything else backed up and securely stored somewhere.
Windows and macOS make securely wiping your pc or laptop easier, and more secure, than it used to be. By default, Windows 10 does not encrypt your data. The upside, Windows 10 can securely erase your files during a reset. Meaning that recovery programs will not be able to grab any data after the reset.
By default, OS X Yosemite and newer will encrypt Mac's with a tool called FileVault. Make sure this feature is running via Apple > System Preferences >Security & Privacy > FileVault. Enable this encryption if it is not already enabled. Once encrypted your data will be impossible to recover after a full reset.
Going through every web account and how to delete it is an impossible task. Therefore, we can provide you with some general guidelines on what you should do though. Most websites will maintain your data, post delete, for 90 or more days.
Google maintains a lot of data about you. Thankfully they provide you that data via your My Activity page. From this page you can adjust various data logging levels by clicking Activiy Controls. Lastly, clicking Delete Activity will take you a page where you can choose what data you want deleted from your account. If you choose to delete everything, make sure to get a copy of your data from Google Takeout.
Apple also makes things pretty painless for deleting your data they have collected. Simply go online, sign into your Apple ID account, click Request to Delete Your Account, read through the disclaimer, and confirm your choice to delete the account.
PCs, laptops, phones, tablets, and social media accounts are not the only areas that have collected personal data from you. For example, smart home speakers, like Amazon Echo or Google Home, collect data on you as well. The data Google Home collects can delete be delete from the same My Activity page we wrote about earlier. Amazon will allow you to delete your Echo's voice recordings from your Amazon Devices page.
Cloud Storage services, like Dropbox, will probably keep copies of deleted files in case you need them at some point in the future. Features like this are great when you need to recover something you realize you still need. However, this feature is not great if someone gains access to your account, because they can easily go digging around and recover those files as well. In the end, if you have something sensitive that you need to delete, especially from cloud storage, you need to make sure it's actually deleted.
Unlike Dropbox, Google Drive allows you to permanently delete multiple files or all of your deleted files.
Empty your entire trash
Delete an individual file forever
OneDrive, like many cloud storage services, will store deleted files in a Recycle Bin. From there you can restore files, if you need to. You can select Recycle bin in the OneDrive left side navigation
Regardless of the device or web account or service, it is always a good idea to make sure your data is deleted properly. We have only listed a handful of examples and how to delete your data properly. A simple web search should help you figure out the best route for deleting your data from whatever device, account, or service you use. If anything, you will learn more about the data you leave behind, something you do with out realizing it. Trust us, it's worth the extra effort to protect yourself and your data from leaking out into the wrong hands.