These days, it’s become quite difficult to maintain privacy on the Internet. Even if you’re taking measures such as using privacy-oriented web browsers, VPN services, etc. you might still be leaving digital footprints behind. And it’s more dangerous than you think. But what is a digital footprint, anyway?
What’s a digital footprint?
In simple terms, a digital footprint is the trail of information that you leave behind when you access certain websites and mobile applications. Some examples of this information include- social media posts, personal details such as name, address, etc. when signing up for newsletters, eBooks downloads, etc.
Why do digital footprints hold significance?
The following are some of the key reasons why you should care about your digital footprints:
- The data you share online, especially in the public domain, can last indefinitely across the web. For instance, your social media content- your profile pictures and posts, can be saved by the platforms themselves or other users and groups. Unethical entities can then misuse your data for social media impersonation without your knowledge.
- Many employers check potential employees’ digital footprints to get an understanding of their personalities and morals during hiring. Some universities also check the online presence of potential students when making college admission-related decisions.
- Cyber criminals often try to exploit the digital footprints of their target individuals to execute scams like phishing or to trigger cyber attacks via malicious emails or text messages.
How to manage your digital footprint?
If you care about privacy and protection of your personal data online, then apply the following techniques:
Identify your digital footprints online and remove them
One of the first things you need to do to manage your digital footprints is identifying what information is available about you online. You can use a search engine like Google to do this research. You can start by searching your name, and then using your name with keywords like name of college, city, employer, etc. You will be surprised by the kind of information you’ll find online.
If you come across a search result that contains false or misleading information about you, then you can rectify the same by contacting the web master or site administrator. You can find their contact details on the website itself. You can also set up Google Alerts to get emails whenever a particular name or phrase related to you is displayed in Google SERPs. Additionally, if you want to go one step further, then you can use a proper digital identity protection utility. There are many such tools online that can scan the web for unauthorized leaks of your private data.
Limit websites where you share your information
It’s annoying, isn’t it? When you visit new websites to inquire about certain products or services, they ask you to sign up first. How many times have you shared your email address, contact number, etc. on these sites? Chances are, a lot of times! But here’s the risk when you share your contact details and other personal details with websites- you leave an important digital footprint that can be exploited or breached, leading to a cyber-attack.
To protect your personal information and prevent spam emails, you can use temporary email ID generators online. These platforms can generate a random email ID and inbox for you that you can use to sign up on a platform and get the desired information. The email ID and emails are automatically deleted after a certain period.
Avoid unsafe websites
Another important habit you can develop to manage your digital footprint is avoiding unsafe websites such as pirated software websites, websites with expired certificates, etc. One common indication of a safe website is that their URL begins with https:// instead of http://. Here, s means that the website has a valid security certificate.
Delete old accounts
It’s reasonable to assume that you have dozens of accounts on different websites today. Chances are, you don’t need many of these accounts. You can identify these accounts, and then delete the accounts so your digital footprints are also removed.
Use strong passwords
The first defense to your online accounts is a strong password. So, be sure to use complex passwords that are hard to crack by cyber criminals. These passwords are a combination of upper-case characters, lower case characters, numbers, and special symbols, and are ideally 8 characters or longer. Also, avoid using the same password with multiple accounts as in that case, a single breach can compromise all your accounts. You can use a good password manager to create new strong passwords and save them all with a single master password for convenience.
Review privacy settings on social media
Most social media websites allow you to control who gets to see what you share online. For instance, you can adjust the settings in such a way that your profile details and the posts you share are only seen by the users in your contacts or friends list. You can also customize the privacy settings to suit your requirements.
Digital identity protection has become more important than ever today as cyber criminals have become more advanced. If you wish to protect your personal data, then you must apply the information we’ve shared above. You should also develop good social media habits so that you don’t overshare and restrict data that doesn’t need to be shared.