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How to Map and Manage Your Digital Footprint?

How to update your habits and tech to keep your digital footprint safe?

Cyber-criminals know what your digital footprint is, and how to deploy it in their favor. It’s unfortunate to realize how many people aren’t aware of how their personal data is being used online, producing money for malicious parties. If you spare only a couple of hours from your free time, you can learn how to make it impossible for cybercriminals to access your digital footprint. Are you ready to give hackers a hard time? 

We all know that the internet is an enormous place where people spread seemingly endless information. Most people use the internet for activities like data transfer, emailing, social media, streaming, and banking services. So, as much information the internet provides, it also collects. 

Each of your activities online leaves a track that comes back to you through ads, and other online commercials. It is also called a digital footprint. You unintentionally, or intentionally leave these footprints as you navigate the internet, download stuff, or fill out forms. These “breadcrumbs” are used for specific purposes; it means they could be good or bad. Most companies use digital footprints to mark ads at you, but malicious hackers could use them to attack you. So, how to reduce the marks you leave behind? In this article, you will learn everything about digital footprints. 

First things first, what is a digital footprint?

A digital footprint is the trace of digital data you leave behind while surfing the internet, scrolling on social media, using your smart TV, uploading, or downloading files, plus many other activities. The internet is like an enormous beach where you leave footprints. And don’t be sure that a wave will wash your prints away until you intentionally try to erase them. They won’t fade off by themselves; it’s not how the internet works. Most footprints and other online activities can remain forever on the internet; but not if you try to remove them.

Think about the information that you share about yourself online. It can be used to track your online choices, behavior, and habits, or it can be used to study your character. So, what’s safety online, anyway? Your safety online depends on who has access to your personal data, and for what purposes it’s being used. We understand it’s hard to manage the amount of information once you make it accessible on the net. 

Types of digital tracks you can consent to on the internet:

  • Active digital footprint
  • Passive digital footprint

An active digital footprint refers to all the information you intentionally share with websites or other online services. Sharing photos online, or sending emails are illustrations of active digital footprints. So, the more posts you share, the longer the trace of the digital footprint grows. 

A passive digital footprint is a track of information you leave unintentionally online. When you select movies to watch on a streaming platform, for example, you immediately leave information to the provider, so they eventually make a selection of movies you may like. Some sites might select your IP address right after visiting them and then access your location. Your search history is the most common way a person can leave passive digital footprints about personal features of their lives.

Technology continues to evolve, and people’s lives continue to be more connected to the digital space. Everyone on the internet leaves digital footprints; there’s no exception. So, it’s not like you can totally avoid it. However, it’s essential to understand the many ways you can follow to avoid leaving too many digital footprints online. 

How to avoid leaving digital footprints? 

Luckily, there are several things you can do to avoid leaving digital footprints. Some of them involve: 

Social media platforms – We must admit that these are the places we spend most of our time, which means that we leave more digital footprints than ever expected. With every tweet, comment, or like, we live a digital footprint behind us. These digital footprints are needed for organizations to suggest who they should follow. So, be careful with your online activities, and limit your posts and shares as much as possible. 

Cookies – Cookies are on most websites, streaming, or online stores. They are used for collecting your activities online and recording traffic across other websites. The information is then helping other advertisers to know your preferences. You definitely noticed all the suggestions online related to things you’ve searched for or recently purchased. That’s the digital footprint you left behind, giving organizations ideas. Don’t accept cookies from suspicious links, or else you may become a victim of a cyber attack. 

As mentioned, information left on the internet might probably remain there forever. Even if a certain content aims to select an audience, there’s no assurance that your data won’t be shared online. So, it’s recommended to stay mindful about what you share online. 

Here are some effective solutions to avoid digital footprints collection:

  • Delete your old, unused accounts
  • Adjust your privacy settings 
  • Check the information online before engaging with a website
  • Use a VPN
  • Deactivate location tracking 

Whether you believe it or not, leaving digital footprints when using the internet happens all the time. But there are ways to stop it and control how much personal information you share online. If you think of completely deleting yourself online, it’s possible, but only if you find out all the accounts you’ve accessed and what information you shared online. After this, you can live happily. But the great percentage of this question goes to “no”, you can’t possibly erase absolutely everything about yourself online. And to be honest, who can live without the internet in today’s world? It’s almost impossible, or better said, would you be pleased to go back to SMS and highly-expensive phone calls? So, yes, you cannot truly destroy your cyber existence. 

The wisest thing you can do is to limit your shares online, and always read the information before giving your consent to have your data collected.

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