The average person would be surprised how much information about them is out there in the open. The more active we are on the Internet, the larger our digital footprint will be. It is a good practice to keep track of our activity on the Internet, audit, and delete any sensitive information that could be lurking out there.
Your digital footprint is the information about you that exists on the internet because of your online activity.
In this blog, we will discuss some simple methods to implement that will help start clearing your digital footprint.
Audit Your Accounts
It is recommended that you deactivate any old or rarely used user accounts. Most websites will require some sort of login to access features of the site. After a while, you may hardly ever visit this website, but your personal information is still stored in their database. Usually, this is prevalent with shopping websites, or websites that offer incentives like coupon codes for creating an account.
Take some time to go through all your unused accounts and delete them. If you think you may have plans to use a login in the future, see if there is an option to deactivate them. That way, your account won’t be active, but it will still allow the option to be reused in the future.
If you are unsure where to start, enter your name into several search engines besides Google like Yahoo! or Bing. The search results should pull up the different social media accounts or websites you have an account with.
It is also a good practice to go through any mail lists or newsletters you may be subscribed to but don’t necessarily read anymore and unsubscribe yourself.
Once you have deleted your old accounts and unsubscribed from any old email lists, now it's time to fine-tune your active accounts. Delete any old photos, comments, and posts. Especially those containing your potential location. Un-tag yourself from any photos, comments, or posts you don’t want to be associated with.
Protect Yourself Against Google
You should disallow Google from legally touching any of your data. Google likes to monitor web, app, and location activity to give users a more “personalized experience.” You have the option to turn many of these controls off. Sign in to your Google account and go to myactivity.google.com to see the different options available.
Sometimes, you may want to remove content about you that you found on a Google search. In special cases, Google can remove links to the information from the search. This won’t remove the content from the website, but it will delist it from showing up in a basic search. Someone could still find it through social media or other search engines.
If there is data that you know was deleted from a website but is still showing up on Google, you can request removal of the data with Google’s Outdated Content Removal Tool.
If you are unable to have a website owner remove the content from a website, Google may remove personal information that creates significant risks of theft, fraud, or harm.
Practice Anonymous Web Browsing
If you share a computer – or are at a public computer – turning on incognito mode prevents your browsing history from being stored on the computer. This will prevent the websites from popping up later in an auto-completed web address.
Third-party cookies – small files that track your movement between different websites – are also blocked. First-party cookies – Cookies that store what’s in your Amazon cart, for example, are deleted at the end of each session.
Unfortunately, opening a tab in incognito mode is just not enough to keep people out of your online business. It is the best practice to take as many cybersecurity cautions as you can when browsing the web.
Use a solid VPN (Virtual Private Network) when surfing the web. VPNs help encrypt online traffic by using special protocols, so your data cannot be easily read by hackers. A VPN will mask your IP address, substituting your real IP with a “fake IP”. The fake IP can be an IP address given by the VPN server.
Choosing the right browser is a crucial step in online safety and privacy. The Tor browser is the closest web browser to full anonymity you can get. The Tor network consists of thousands of servers worldwide. All data traffic is cut up into pieces that are then encrypted before ending up at its destination. This process takes time, so the Tor browser can be slow. Combining a VPN with the Tor browser will add an extra layer of encryption to your data.
Please note that Tor provides users with access to the dark web. Surfing the dark web should be done extremely carefully. The dark web isn’t regulated, so there are a lot of security risks that come with it. It is very easy to run into malware there.
It’s a fact of life that at some stage, someone will search for you online. If you’re applying for work, that person could be a potential employer. If you're not happy with your digital footprint, it’s important to manage it well.
The speed and convenience the Internet has provided throughout the years has made it easy for users to neglect privacy and safety. Unfortunately, major corporations and hackers are taking advantage of this.
They are aware that the average user would prefer things to work and work quickly. You must be mindful of all the sites and applications that have your information.