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14 Tips on how to protect your digital footprint

Footprint in the sand

Have you ever thought that people leave their footprints not only when they take steps on the ground but also when they enter the World Wide Web? Every step we make online is recorded. It makes no difference whether you search for anything, look through your social media profile, or transfer funds, each of the actions made can be traced and the information gathered can be used for different purposes and have a detrimental effect sometimes. Therefore it is important to protect your data and minimize the ways you are tracked online. How can you do that?

Look: this article will tell how to protect your digital footprint following simple tips and without advanced computer skills.

Table of Contents

What is a digital footprint?

The term ‘digital footprint’ means the evidence of the online presence and is applied to every user who accesses the Internet. Any activity you have online can be collected by different services, companies, and individuals since it leaves a digital trail. For example, Google records your queries and search history while other platforms use cookies and determine your location on the basis of IP address. As a result, it is possible to get an image and even the personal details of every user without much difficulty. This information can be used by criminals and hackers as well as impact future education, career prospects, and life in general. Only imagine that a photo of a cute newborn baby in a funny outfit added by mum can be used as a reproach when this baby grows up in 20 years or more. It should encourage users to make the conclusion that every person creates his own digital footprint on the Internet and it is necessary to be careful in your online activity for your own security, first of all.

Types of digital footprint

In fact, the digital footprint can be of 2 types:

  1. Active

    This footprint type is left by people deliberately. When a website guest enters his or her username and password, lets the system remember it, adds posts or shares other ones, this information is provided by the user with the goal to enter a platform or share the posts appreciated. Consequently, it is approved for being left as an online digital footprint.

  2. Passive

    This type of footprint is left by a person who had no intention to do that. It also means that this user does not realize that someone collects information about his or her activity. The most vivid examples are counting the number of website visits made by one user or determining user device location using the IP address.

How to recognize digital identity fraud

How to know if you're being watched online?

The digital footprint is a synonym to the digital identity of yours. It means that when a person enters your name in the search engine, it reveals all the details connected with it and everyone can learn them. However, sometimes this information can be stolen and used for illegal purposes. Most often, criminals hunt for user personal information to be able to get access to his or her social media accounts, credit cards, e-wallets etc. But it often happens that even if such valuable information was stolen, people do not recognize this fact. How to understand that your digital identity data is used by thieves? There are several ways to do that:

If you face these or any other things that could happen only if you own a certain type of information, it is time to worry since your personal data could be stolen and used against you. If you faced such a situation, it is time to call the police. Unless you wish to get once in this trap, learn how to protect your digital footprint using the following tips.

Your social media

One of the most visited websites on the web is social media platforms. Billions of people have accounts on them, so it is not surprising that such a website as Facebook, for example, records every piece of information added by users to improve its marketing strategies. Moreover, many experts claim that social media websites might sell this information to third parties. As a result, your digital footprint left can be used not for your benefit. What to do?

  1. Log out the account each time you leave the platform

    If you enter the social media account and forget to log out, it continues to follow you on the web. Opening any website with the button that offers to like something using your account or make a repost, the social media platform will automatically record your activity. If you do not want your social network to follow your activity on other platforms, it is necessary to log out of your account each time you leave the website.

  2. Delete old accounts

    When you decide to create a new social media profile or mailbox, it is important to delete all the old accounts. Users can deactivate, remove or close these accounts. For this purpose, it is necessary to contact customer support or use the settings offered.

  3. Manage active accounts mindfully

    There are people who do not mind adding photos of passport to social media pages and then complain about any credit debt they have never taken. It goes without saying that any personal information you add including your date of birth, credit card number, even a photo of your child where you have accidentally taken a photo of your address can be used by criminals to cheat you, let alone situations when you send your username and password in the message. If you really want to protect your digital footprint, you should be careful with the information you add, transfer and share.

Privacy settings

Looking for a way how to protect digital footprint every user should evaluate the privacy settings of every tool and platform he or she uses. You should never agree with cookies mindlessly if you want to visit one or another website. It would be reasonable to read the terms and conditions before pressing the ‘Agree’ button. Moreover, try to find time for adjusting your privacy settings in the following ways:

  1. Adjust privacy settings of the email and social media

    In fact, Facebook, Twitter, and Google allow adjusting privacy settings to leave less digital footprint. For example, when you use Facebook, you can limit everything you post to be viewed only by your friends. The same goes for Google since every user of this service can improve privacy settings too. It is enough to find time and all the prints you will leave will be not available to foreigners.

  2. Separate work and personal profiles

    It is not a rarity that a company has its own social media account, let alone an email address or website. If you have access to them or manage them, it is very important to be careful since you can mistakenly use your work account instead of your personal one or vice versa. As a result, any footprint you will leave can lead to the loss of valuable information, so it is better to use different devices for accessing each of the accounts.

  3. Share false information

    Sometimes it is enough to know the full name of the person and his date of birth to get other important details about him. Consequently, it is worth considering to avoid mentioning your surname when you register any accounts and invent something instead. The same goes for a date of birth and other personal information. Even if you want your friends to congratulate you on your birthday the same day you have it, you can change the year of birth, for example.

  4. Make regular software updates

    It is not a secret that every time we update software used we improve our security level and make devices used more bullet-proof. If you do not want to be tracked and taken advantage of your footprint, never postpone updates.

  5. Avoid using public Wi-Fi and publicly available USB ports

    When you enter your social media profile or any other website via a public Wi-Fi spot, the chances that your personal data such as a username and password can be stolen increase significantly. It is better to avoid entering any important information if your Internet connection is not secure. Moreover, when you connect your device to a public or foreign USB port, you should remember that it is usually configured to transfer and synchronize data immediately after connection. Consequently, you can easily share some important details without even knowing that.

  6. Review your online presence

    Before you decide to change your password for a stronger one, it is necessary to understand how the global network represents you online. For this purpose, enter your first name and surname in the search line and press the ‘search’ button. You will get links associated with your online identity. Of course, some of the information you will see might be not appealing to you and you can turn to these websites with the request to delete it.

Use incognito mode

As you know, most of the modern browsers collect a certain number of data about their users. It is not only the search history, IP address, cookies, but also many other details. However, you can prevent yourself from leaving this digital footprint if you use incognito mode or browsers that guarantee privacy. Since not all people appreciate being tracked, more and more private search engines appear in the market. They do not record any data and thus do not share it with third parties. There are even tools that use the Google search engine as a source for search results but still guarantees privacy to users.

Special extensions

Since the IT industry is one of the fastest-developing in the world nowadays, hundreds of new tools, plugins, software examples are offered to users on a daily basis. Many of them are absolutely free and can be used for improving privacy. No matter what browser you use, there are multiple extensions to keep your privacy at a higher level. For example, if you use Google actively, you can set up Privacy Badger, Ghostery, Blur and many other popular extensions that can help you to define if there is anyone who is tracking your digital footprint and who it is. Moreover, such extensions offer many other benefits to users including speeded up browsing and putting a block on tracking and annoying ads.

Create strong passwords

Password

It goes without saying that one of the keys to your security is a strong password. It is not a rarity when people complain about stolen social media accounts and personal data contained there since their passwords could be easily generated or guessed. How often does it happen that people choose the most popular passwords such as from 0 to 9, date of birth, first name etc.? It is natural that it will not take much time and effort to guess it. However, if you wish to know how can you protect your digital footprint with a password, follow these tips:

  1. Encrypt your messages sent and devices used

    Encryption is a reliable way of keeping privacy online. Sometimes it is enough to be located next to the device to be able to copy certain information stored on it, so it is better to use pin codes, two-factor authentication, and other methods of securing privacy to prevent unauthorized access to your device and history of online activity. The same goes for messages since Google, for example, considers the texts of your message sent and changes ads shown to you on the basis of this information. If you were asking about the way how to remove a spot from your jeans, be sure to see ads of new jeans for sale and popular detergents.

  2. Take advantage of a password keeper

    It is important not only to make your password stronger combining both letters and numbers but also not to forget it the next time you decide to log in your account. For this purpose, it is better to use a tool that will keep all your usernames and passwords in memory and generate them for you each time you will decide to enter one or another account. Never allow browsers to remember your passwords since you make your accounts more sensitive in case of the loss of a mobile phone or if anyone else uses your computer or tablet.

Back up data

You will agree that much of the information we store in social networks is unique (e.g. photos, videos, etc.) and it will be a great disappointment to lose it. Moreover, if someone uses your footprint for illegal purposes and attacks your device, you may lose all the data stored there. Therefore, it is very important to copy all your information to hardware or store it in the cloud if you do not want to experience this great loss once upon a time.

Conclusion

A user digital footprint is a very important factor that might leave a great impact on a person’s life and therefore, it should be protected carefully. If you are an avid Internet user and can’t imagine your life without the World Wide Web, it is time to care about your privacy and make it a habit of your everyday life. These simple tips will help every user to protect his digital footprint no matter what spheres of interest there are. Moreover, they should become a style of your Internet use to work for your benefit constantly.

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