Whenever you do something online, you contribute to your digital footprint. This happens every time you search for something online, take part in a forum discussion, look for people on social media platforms, make online purchases, and so on.
Experts define a digital footprint as a trail of “electronic breadcrumbs” people leave behind after using the Internet. Your digital footprint includes traces of all your online activities. As a result, if an individual with malevolent intent gets hold of your digital footprint, he or she will automatically know your buying habits, your political affiliations, your religion, your demographics, your passions and interests, and a range of other personal information.
While your digital footprint will allow you to enjoy personalization and make online browsing a more fascinating experience for you, things can become exceedingly difficult if your digital footprint gets compromised.
Malicious individuals might use your personal data for generating revenue without your knowledge. You may find it distracting and annoying if you get constantly flooded with information and advertisements when spending time online. Financial organizations might use data related to your purchase behaviors to increase interest rates on your credit cards or reduce your credit limits.
You can avoid the above-mentioned consequences by protecting your digital footprint online. The tips below will make the process seamless for you.
1. Encrypt All Your Online Communications
You cannot expect to escape the prying eyes of hackers and companies if you keep using an unencrypted network for browsing the Internet. Hackers and companies will take advantage of the unencrypted network and track your online activities and internet history constantly.
If you don’t take the necessary steps, you’ll soon become a victim of hacking attacks and experience issues like data theft and misuse of private data. To prevent such events, it is recommended to use a VPN. A VPN or Virtual Private Network will encrypt your traffic and stop third parties from identifying your IP address. This, in turn, will reduce your digital footprint significantly.
2. Share Content Wisely
You can effectively protect your digital footprint online by being a bit careful about what you are sharing. Online sharing can be broadly divided into three categories.
- Social sharing: This category includes everything you share on social media platforms. Individuals who are new on social media often make it easy for others to gain access to their email id, residential address, and phone number. They also end up sharing their location, which makes it even easier for agencies and hackers to track them.
Another mistake many users (both starters and old ones) make is pressing the “like” button on the social media pages of the healthcare providers, clinics, pharmacies, or banks they have connections with. This allows cybercriminals to gain easy access to the critical accounts of those users.
- Submissions: These include various online forms users fill out. Whenever you fill out such forms, you need to provide personal data to concerned organizations. This automatically increases your digital footprint. If you don’t act wisely when deciding whether the form you are submitting is worth it or not, you may become a victim of data misuse or data breach. Ideally, whenever possible, try to find a service provider who can serve you without receiving your personal information.
- Login sharing: It might seem that login sharing via Facebook, or your email is convenient. However, the fact is that it leaves you at risk of losing your privacy. Always log in to third-party websites directly. Doing so is essential to keep your email, and social media accounts secure.
3. Stay Away from Unsafe Websites
Before you enter websites, fill out and submit forms, or make posts, never forget to check the URLs of those sites. If you find that it’s a website whose URL begins with “HTTP” instead of “HTTPS”, it wouldn’t be wise to enter your personal data there. “S” stands for “secure”, and without it, there’s no guarantee that your data will remain protected from hackers and other cybercriminals.
You must know that browsing such sites can also be dangerous as browsers can send a considerable amount of data to unwanted individuals.
4. Delete Everything You Don’t Use or Need Anymore
Most Internet users have multiple open accounts they never use. They have such accounts on websites offering services and selling products, banking sites, etc. If you want to reduce your digital footprint, locate such accounts, and delete them right away.
5. Update Your System
Your chances of becoming victims of cybercrimes would be much higher if you avoid updating your operating systems, networks, browsers, and other software you use regularly. Cybercriminals can exploit these flaws and gain access to your system. Keeping the software up to date will prevent such events by reducing the exposure of your digital footprint.
Protecting your digital footprint is crucial for keeping your personal data secure. The above tips will help you manage your digital footprint effectively by changing the way you use the Internet.