In today’s digitally driven world, most people resort to online resources for shopping, fulfilling office tasks, and entertainment. However, with every login, signup, or ad click, you are leaving a trace of your digital identity behind. At times, a simple Google search or leaving a comment on social media can widen your digital footprint, which is a trace of your action or activity on the web. This digital footprint will add up in bits and pieces to form your identity on the web, which makes it easier for others to use your personal data without your consent. To save your personal data from being misused or stolen, you must minimize your digital footprint.
Here are some effective ways to do so –
1. Deactivate Unused Accounts
When signing up on any website and creating an account, you will be asked your name, email address, profile picture, and phone number. By feeding your details, you are handing over your personal data to an unknown third party. Make a list of all unused accounts along with the ones that you hardly use. Deactivate the ones that you no longer access. If certain sites are protected by third parties, get in touch with them and request your data to be deleted. Lastly, delete your account on the site before exiting. This is specifically important with shopping sites as most of these display your shipping address and payment details.
If you are unable to recall the accounts or services you no longer use, take a look at your email inbox and filter out names of those services that send you unrequited newsletters and promotions. Do not forget to check your online bookmarks and password vaults.
2. Avoid Clicking on Ads and Surveys
At times, you will see random ad banners and surveys on random sites that compel you to click and check out their special offer. While clicking on ads can accumulate cookies on your browser, filling out these random surveys can widen your digital footprint at a marginal scale. If you like filling out surveys and want to make money off them, use trusted sources such as Google Opinion rewards or Survey Monkey. Using random sites may increase the threat of data breaches.
3. Clear Cache
Clear your cache and browsing history to further minimize your digital footprint. While clearing your browsing history to maintain privacy is necessary, you must also make it a habit to keep your frequently visited sites hidden from cybercriminals, especially when your device is compromised. Clearing your cache will help delete cookies that most websites feed on to track your preferences. Use the feature ‘Do not track’ to keep your browser from storing cookies. Furthermore, clear your cache every day before you turn off your device as it deletes the stored cookies too.
4. Share Limited Content
The amount of data you share online leaves a huge digital footprint behind. Sharing content and data over social media accounts is one of the major contributors to the building footprint. Most social media platforms ask personal data such as name, email address, and phone number to create an account, which can be easily retrieved by cybercriminals. Furthermore, sharing your location, putting your house address when ordering online, and filling out submission forms are other ways to widen your footprint, and must be avoided as much as possible. When it comes to protecting your identity, you must find alternatives to find information online and minimize your digital presence. That being said, do not log in using Facebook or other social media accounts; use the third-party website login feature to access the site.
5. Avoid Using Unknown Websites and Network
Needless to say, using unknown or unsecured websites can pose a major threat to personal information. Enter your personal data only on sites that start with “HTTPS” instead of “HTTP” as the former is more secure. Think twice before entering your personal information on seemingly fake sites. In case of ambiguity, research more about the company and contact the service provider to clear your doubts. While using unknown websites is discouraged, you must also be aware of public networks as these are more prone to the data breach.
Cybercriminals can easily navigate through unsecured networks, most of which include free public Wi-fi connections offered in restaurants and around main streets. If it’s an emergency, use a VPN that successfully encrypts your personal data.
These steps will help you minimize your digital footprint and ensure a secure browsing experience. Since the number of data breach attempts and identity thefts is increasing in today’s advancing world, you must minimize the amount of data you feed online and delete the information that still exists.