4 tips to clean up your digital history now

Cat Mules

Cat Mules

Digital hoards, email sprawls, amassing photos of unknown origin – sound like you? Here’s how to get that social long-tail under control.

Post something online, and it’s hard to know if it ever really disappears. As the threats and realities of data breaches escalate on the web, more governments put customer protocols in place. In the mean time, you’d be savvy to understand who’s collecting it in the first place and more so how to get it removed. Luckily, there are ways to reclaim your data.

‘HEY GOOGLE’

Data collection’s all well and good when adding to our personal memory banks, but it is also used to serves ads. There are two large-scale companies you’d be best to know the mechanics of to gain control over what you’ll be dished up.

Let’s start with the mainstay of search engines,  Google, with 90 percent of the world’s search engine share. It’s lesser known that Google also has a powerful option for setting up auto-deletion of data. See the information Google is tracking about your online, search and location activity – Step One is to log into your Google account, Step Two to click Data & Personalisation. Here you can personalise your experience with Google apps and targeted adds. Selecting the Auto-delete option will automatically wipe the data after 3, 18, or 36 months.

Getting a tad more specific, you can go to your Google Dashboard and erase by field, everything from what you’ve said to your Google Nest smart speaker, to your Web & App Activity. A good starting point might be downloading your data to see what they have on you.

Facebook’s another market monopoliser with a broad social marketing reach. To gain most control, limit what Facebook collects from you from the start by conducting a Privacy Checkup. Also at anytime go to your Facebook Settings on the web, then select Your Facebook Information and View, to access and delete some of this data.

CLOUD STORAGE TACKLING

The Cloud has an epic storage capacity that’s equally assurable with its privacy, but it’s in your better interest to keep yourself organised (plus limit the amount of money you’ll need to spend on Cloud storage each month). Unsurprisingly, there are some tricks for the Cloud storage services.

For Google Drive on the web, use the Last modified column heading to switch between the most recently modified files first or the least recently modified files first. You can also run specific dated searches in the main Google Drive search box to look for files last modified before or after a certain date, like “before:2020-06-01”. Ctrl+Click is the way to select multiple Google Drive files. Then, click the trash can icon to delete them.

In the case of OneDrive choose the Modified and Descending option from the Sort menu in the top right-hand corner. In iCloud it’s the Sort by … option at the top right above the file list.

SOCIAL MEDIA EXPUNGING

If escalating threats of data breaches have taught us anything, it is that as citizens we need to take ownership of our data and think carefully about who we share it with. Social media’s had the worst rap – with the awareness Facebook and others are still tracking you as you journey around the web.

Jumbo – A simpler method for navigating your mass purging, phone app Jumbo (on Android and iOS) syncs up with your social accounts (Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn incld.) to scan you privacy settings and let you know what ones should be changed. Suggestions include deleting Alexa recordings and archiving old tweets. It also blocks ad trackers as you browse the web and use other apps. And, as you’d hope – Jumbo doesn’t store users’ personal data or account logins.

TweetDelete – authorise it to connect with your Twitter account, and you’re away! You can choose to delete tweets that are over a week old, and it can delete hefty portions in a matter of minutes.

Social Book Post Manager – This is a free add-on for Chrome that lets you delete content by months and years, with minimum to maximum speeds varying in the amount of posts that are purged each time. You might want to step away from the computer while it’s happening though – unless you want to see your self-evolution in slow motion.

Caution: Before using these tools, we highly recommend you download your social media data first. Do so in the settings of your various accounts – on Twitter here, Facebook here.

INBOX DECLUTTERING

With email services hosting so much storage in the Cloud now, there doesn’t seem the need for deleting even a single email – that is, until the time you have to dig through your email archive to find something you need.

How you do it will depend on the email service client you’re using. Both Gmail and Outlook web enable find emails filtered within a certain span of time or by particular criteria.

In Gmail, you’ll need to make use of the search term operators, listed here. For purging your emails fully, you’ll likely want to jump between or “is:unimportant” or “older_than:6m” to bring up a full list of emails that have been marked (by yourself or Gmail’s automatic marking system) as low priority.

In Outlook web, click on the drop down arrow to the right of the top Search banner, to access Advanced Search. You’ll then be able adjust the Date to a custom range, going as far back as you need. Once you’ve got those search results on screen, select all the unwanted messages and erase them. (Shift + Click the first and last messages you want to select to speedily do this.)

Consider actioning these tips once every couple of months or so, to clear out the data or files you no longer need. In turn, it’ll stop your past showing up again to embarrass you, as well as giving you better control of your place within the social media marketing machine.

Cat Mules

Cat Mules

Umbrellar's Digital Journalist, coming from a background in tech reporting and research. Cat's inspired by the epic potential of tech and helping kiwi innovators share their success stories.

Data, AI, BI & ML

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