Minimizing your online footprint

Do you know that 75% of all popular websites use tracking tools to follow their users’ activities?

The average American who spends 25% of their time online leaves significant room for third parties to access personal information.

The online footprint you generate can risk your privacy and security, among other things.

If you want to downsize your digital footprint, here are five nifty ways you can eliminate your personal data online.

Understanding Your Digital Footprint

Anyone who uses the internet creates a trail of data associated with them, known as a digital footprint.

Once you create a digital footprint, it’s more or less permanent. If the data goes public (which it does), you have little control over how others use it. That reason alone is a key driver for digital footprint management.

There are two categories of digital footprints — passive and active.

A passive digital footprint is created when you generate data without actively putting out information on the internet. For example, whenever you visit a website, the server may log your IP address. Hospital records are another example.

An active digital footprint, on the other hand, is data you put out. Social platforms are some of the most common forms of active data that creates such a footprint.

Why Should You Watch Your Digital Footprint?

If any online interaction creates a digital footprint, why should you care, some may ask? Here are a few compelling reasons that can make you care more about the data you generate online.

The Threat to Your Reputation

Whether you’re an individual or company, one thing is clear — what you put up stays up forever. Your beliefs and interests may change, but your digital footprint is permanent.

If you generate data that paints a negative perception of you, you’ll be paying the price years later.

For example, famed comedian Kevin Hart’s 2012 tweet came back to haunt him. Despite claiming he no longer held the same views expressed in the old tweet, he was denied the chance to host the 2019 Oscars because of it.

Security

Since what you put up online is permanent, you want to watch the data you generate for your security concerns. Social media is a notorious teachable moment for such situations.

In many instances, social media users tend to post information that includes their location. As a result, there has been a rise in crimes leveraging this ‘freely given’ information.

Even for corporates, passive digital information is critical in ensuring their security. For example, a company’s web content can include digital ads that host malware. Without periodic content assessment, such malware can go unnoticed.

As a business, if you track your customers’ website activity, you need to ensure their data is secure.

How to Reduce Your Online Footprint

If your digital footprint concerns you and you need to minimize it, there are ways you can go about managing your data. These include:

1. Eliminating or Deactivating Forgotten Accounts

Nearly any platform you need to use online now requires you to open an account. For the vast majority of users, these aren’t accounts they actively keep track of. And that’s where the problem arises.

When you let a forgotten account lie fallow, you provide a breeding ground for malicious actors to breach your security. Since these accounts hold your personal information, it becomes easy for your identity to be manipulated.

In the end, you may end up generating active and passive data that sullies your reputation, all without your knowledge.

For example, it’s easy for a malicious actor with base skills to hack into your fallow social media account. From there, they can run a crypto mining bot that sends spammy updates using your profile.

Thus, if you forgot your old account in the HBO Go vs now confusion, you need to deactivate or delete it. The same applies to every other forgotten account or profile you don’t sue.

2. Set Google Alerts of Your Name

It’s not only past data you’re looking at when you want to minimize your footprint. Ongoing online content relating to you also matters. To that end, you need to Google yourself to find out what already exists.

Once you purge existing online data, you don’t want to leave it floating out there. You need to set Google Alerts for your name. These alerts can help you surface any new content relating to you that arises, so you clip that information.

You’ll then have the means to monitor and minimize emerging online data about you regularly.

3. Eliminate Your Information on Data Collection Sites

Your average online user doesn’t know that certain platforms and sites exist solely to crawl the internet for personal data. Whatever information these organizations collect, they sell to third parties like advertisers.

You can’t dedicate yourself to learning how to delete your online footprint without dealing with these data collection sites and platforms. If you don’t, not only will you keep being bombarded by ads, but your privacy will be at risk.

Go through data collection sites and search for your name. Wherever you get a hit, take the time to go through the opt-out process to remove your name. If this sounds tedious, you can hire third-party firms to do it for you at a fee.

4. Avoid Putting Personal Data Online

No one can access your persona data online without your posting it first. Therefore, it’s clear to see that if you avoid posting personal data online, you can control your digital footprint.

Be careful with the amount of personal content you post on social media, as these are the most likely places where you can unwittingly grow your digital footprint.

5. Unsubscribe From Mailing Lists

If you don’t follow a mailing list, you should unsubscribe from it. Such lists contain your passive data, and the more lists you are on the bigger your passive digital footprint.

Take Care of the Data You Put up Online

With every keystroke and every tap, you publish data online that actively or passively grows your online footprint. To avoid security and privacy violation issues, ensure you invest in eliminating your digital footprint and only releasing as little personal data online as possible.

Your digital footprint is one of the many things you need to know as you navigate the internet. Our website features up-to-date technology news to keep you in the know. Check out more of our articles today to stay ahead of the game.