Every online activity done by you leaves a trail behind. Do you know how data is collected from you when you browse the web? It is collected through your search terms, websites you visit, your demographic information, IP address, location, info about your computer, what you buy, and YouTube channels you watch. The collected information is your digital footprint. These footprints are like small breadcrumbs, but not too small to ignore as they can have repercussions in your life. Reducing your digital footprint is one of the best ways to keep you safe online and reduce any chance of future cyber-attack.
What Is Digital Footprint & Who Can Track It?
Digital footprints are the online records and tracks of a person when he surfs any kind of information on the web. Every moment we are online, we grow our digital footprint to help others to sketch a picture of us. Digital footprints are not always traced or misused by hackers; they can even be traced by:
- Potential Employer
- Friend and Family
- Financial Organizations like Bank
Types Of Digital Footprint
This footprint is made from comments you make on social media, filling online forms, opting for newsletters, and agreeing to install cookies.
You leave a trail behind on the web without knowing it like some websites collect such information from you which you would want to keep private. It is a hidden process and you will not realize that.
Getting withdrawn from the internet is impossible, here’s how you can clean the digital footprint with some simple tips:
Clear Browsing History and Cache
When you surf the web, your browser collects a lot of information and stores it for future use. That can improve your further browsing experience, but that practice gathers a lot of digital footprints. Even if you stop browsing a web page, the search engine has a track of your search; this means your information is cached on the search engine’s servers. The cache is a copy of a web page on the server.
Removing outdated search results, browser cache, and history help to keep you on the safe side and it is a simple and effective solution to get rid of your digital footprint. You can clear your browsing history entirely or if you forget to do that never-ending task, you can manage settings to customize for how long your browser keeps your history. In this way, you are reducing the chance of your browser and websites to keep a track of you.
Google Yourself Frequently
It is really important to know what people are saying or commenting about you online. Seeing yourself as others see is a primary step to protect yourself and your identity from online theft. When you Google yourself, you will see all the websites that have your information and digital footprints like your photo, phone numbers, present and previous addresses, and information about your family members. With in-depth research, you can also find out which website pays to give away your information.
As an extra precaution, you can set up a Google alert, if you don’t have one. Through the alert, you will receive e-mail notifications when your name appears online on web pages, newspaper articles, or blogs.
Use A VPN
VPN or Virtual Private Network is an excellent way to hide your digital footprint. VPN encrypts all data you send or receive on the web. Your IP address is vital information you share without knowing. VPN can mask your true IP address and make it hard to find your true physical location. Masking your IP address also restricts the websites to track your search trends and collect data.
Your data is not more vulnerable to being stolen or misused with a VPN. In this present era, we travel a lot and use many unprotected Wi-Fi networks in airports and railway stations; VPN can be a savior in those cases also. Use VPN to reduce or restrict third parties to view, sell or collect your search history and other personal information. In one word it is an extra shield to protect your privacy on the web.
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Leave The Cookies Behind
Cookies are tiny files sent to your device by websites to remember certain information about you, like what you watch, what you buy, or what you keep on your shopping cart for a future purchase, and your login information. That is why we see advertisements for products on social media sites just after leaving an online shop. To stop this from happening and to clean your digital footprint, block cookies from third parties; disable cookies entirely or as much as you can to hide your surfing habits, and set your browser to delete cookies when you close.
Protect Your Privacy On Social Media
Social media keeps us connected worldwide, but at the same time, it forces us to overshare things like our personal details. You need to be careful about what information you give out on social media websites. The activity of providing that information can be vulnerable. You leave a clear digital footprint when you post anything or leave a comment on social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. The more you stay, the more people you follow, and the more you comment, the more functional is your digital footprint.
When it comes to social media, be careful not to share critical information. Another way to reduce your digital footprint on social media is to think and review before you post; have your profile on selected and good websites; take control of tagging on your profile; and control who can contact you over social media.
Unsubscribe From Irrelevant Mailing Lists
Your communication reveals your identity and email is a primary mode of communication. We can track the sent emails, but what about the received emails? In this digital trend, a common marketing trend is to send weekly or fortnightly newsletters through emails, and naturally, those emails have CTA (call to action) links to respond. Some of us have a habit to accept newsletter offers blindly, this grows the chance of revealing our digital footprints as those mails increase the chance of future spam or phishing attacks.
When our mailboxes become full of unnecessary emails from various organizations, we have to delete emails daily. There is a smart way to get rid of that communication and reduce digital footprint; just unsubscribe from the newsletters that are not of any use to you.
Delete Unused & Old Accounts
Data breach through digital footprint is a common affair. You must remove your data from those platforms you no longer use. You can do this by closing your old accounts rather than keeping them sleeping. Leaving them as they are can put you at serious risk and increase your digital footprint to be misused. That practice of deletion can clean much of your digital footprint.
This process involves 2 steps: find and then delete. To find your old accounts, look in your password manager, search your email, and check social media platforms. To delete, visit that website’s support and look for information to delete accounts; if that doesn’t work, contact the support and request them to delete the account.
Choose Strong & Memorable Passwords
Passwords have a chance to generate much digital footprint and frequently you need them on multiple web pages. Create a strong password, a combination of at least 10 numbers, symbols, upper and lower case letters. Create a password in a way that it becomes easy for you to remember, but hard for others to guess. Keep this in mind as password cracking tools are very effective at present to get to your accounts.
Don’t create passwords with the most popular choices like your name, name of your spouse, or children. Another step is to choose the security question judiciously while preparing a password. Do you find this hard? Use a password manager to perform the task on your behalf. Another way is to turn on the two-factor authentication for your most vital accounts.
While it’s true that you can’t live without online interactions. You’ll be creating accounts on many websites, you’ll have many login credentials, and you will have online profiles too! That’s ok. The point is, you should remove your presence from the websites that you no longer use or browse. You need to be careful where you give out your information. If the website where you mention your information is not authorized or reputed, there are possibilities of your information getting compromised. You should keep in mind that numerous people are listening to you and watching your every web step on the internet. All you need to do is be careful. You must work towards establishing a strong digital footprint! Create your presence on websites or blogs that will help you professionally. Take advantage of all the online platforms and present yourself in a good light.
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