Whether you’re a public figure, a social media influencer, or an ordinary individual active online, the internet knows more about you than you think. This can be outright dangerous for you and your identity. If you can’t see how, you’re probably not aware of swatting, a treacherous prank that’s fast becoming an epidemic.
In 2015, an underage Canadian boy pleaded guilty to 23 swatting attacks, primarily focused on female league of legend players who didn’t respond to his friend requests. The teen also got Disneyland’s Space Mountain shut by reporting a false bomb threat.
What is Swatting?
According to Seatle.gov, swatting is the practice of making a hoax 911 call to report acts of extreme violence such as gunfire, hostages, homicide, etc., with the aim to divert law enforcement personnel to an unsuspecting residence. This malicious act creates unnecessary risk and an environment of fear, and in some instances, has even taken the lives of innocent individuals.
Anyone can be a victim of swatting, those associated with gaming, the online broadcasting community, and the tech industry at higher risk. A mere argument on a gaming platform or even on social media such as Facebook or Twitter can pave the way to a swatting attack against you. Today’s highly connected world offers various ways to determine someone’s location. Pranksters can find your personal information on Google, your social media profiles, and other ‘people search’ websites.
Some tech-savvy users can even track the IP address of the device you’re using that gives out the device’s location. These are public and are shared every time you connect to a website or an online service, including social media, gaming platforms, and more. If someone who wants to harm you obtains access to your home address, they can proceed to submit their hoax to the police. While making the call, they’ll hide their identity and location, perhaps by using anonymously registered VoIP, which hides one’s location behind a proxy.
Keeping these vulnerabilities in mind and the threat of swatting and removing personal information from the internet can go a long way to protecting you and your loved ones.
To help you out, we’ll now take a look at how to remove personal information from Google:
How to Remove Personal Information from Google
Set Your Social Media Profiles ‘Private’
When your social media accounts are public, everything you post, such as images, videos, text, comments, etc., can be accessed via search engines. By default, most social media platforms are set to public, allowing anyone around the globe to see your photos, comments, interests, and even location. Your social media profiles can be commonly used by people who search websites to collect your details.
To erase your information from Google, your first step should be to set your social media profiles to ‘private’. This way, only you and those who follow you on social media will be able to access and view your content.
On Instagram, go to settings, navigate to Privacy < Account Privacy and switch the ‘Private Account’ toggle to the right. This will make your Instagram account private. Similarly, go to Twitter’s privacy and safety settings, and under Tweet Privacy, you’ll find a box next to the ‘Protect my Tweets’ term. Check the box and click ‘Save’ at the end of the page. You’ll need to enter your password to make the change.
Get Your Data off People Search Sites
Many online users think that removing personal data from their social media profiles makes them secure. Unfortunately, that’s far from true. The biggest challenge to remove personal details from the web is to get yourself off ‘people search’ sites. This is primarily because you don’t know which sites collect your data as they don’t seek your permission before doing so.
So, how do you remove your data from these sites? The free but largely impractical approach is to manually remove your data by visiting these sites one by one. Not only can it be challenging to determine which sites carry your personal information, but following this route also means that you’ll also need to keep checking them from time to time because they list your information every few months.
A more pragmatic approach is to leverage the OneRep tool, which will not only find and remove your personal information from 100 ‘people search’ sites but will also continue to ensure that your online data remains private.
Hide Your Location
As mentioned earlier, your IP address can be used to trace your location. In other cases, your Geo-tagged posts on social media may also be used. Simply using a proxy should help you hide your location. It is the most reliable and secure type of proxy that will encrypt all the web traffic engaging with your device and direct it through an intermediary server in your chosen location.
No matter how competent a user is, they won’t be able to track your location for swatting hoaxes and other reasons.
Now that you know how to remove personal information from Google, it’s time to take action and protect yourself from swatting, identity theft, financial attack, and other cybercrimes. While the above-explained tips should help get your location and other data off the internet, the best course of action is to avoid allowing online users to carry out their malicious acts.
This can mean not giving out your personal information such as credit card details, ID or passport details, location information, images, passwords, etc., on social media and other platforms on the internet.
To learn more, take a look at this guide on How to Remove Personal Information from Google.