Protecting your digital footprint means keeping your personal information and online activities safe. It’s very important because your online presence can reveal a lot about you, and bad actors can use this information to steal your identity, trick you, or harm your reputation. By safeguarding your digital footprint, you can reduce the risk of cybercrimes, maintain a positive online image, and keep your personal data from being used for malicious intent.
What Is a Digital Footprint?
Your digital footprint is any information about you that is found online, including your name, home address, phone number, birth date, locations you visited, and photos you shared and posted on social media. In the digital world, we leave behind two types of traces — active and passive digital footprints:
- Active digital footprints
Basically, it’s what you intentionally put out there on the internet. For example, when you share posts, comments, or chat on social media, it creates an active digital footprint.
- Passive digital footprints
This is what happens behind the scenes. When you visit websites, they can quietly collect information about you such as how often you visit, where you’re from, and even your computer’s IP address.
5 Ways to Check Your Digital Footprints
If you’re curious about your digital footprint and want to take a closer look at it, you can follow these steps to gain insights into the information that’s available about you online and better manage your digital presence.
- Search engines
- Type your name into a search engine.
- Try different versions of your name and any online nicknames.
- Sometimes, unique online names can tell more about you than your real name.
- Review social media
- Search for your social media handle followed by the platform’s name in a search engine.
- You’ll see a list of your popular social media posts.
- Alternatively, visit your social media profiles and scroll through your past posts.
- To find specific posts, search using your social media handle, platform name, and relevant keywords.
- Image search
- Perform a reverse image search to see if any of your images have been posted to sites you’re not aware of.
- Instead of focusing solely on text content, this step helps you discover visual content related to you.
- Aggregator sites
- Aggregator websites are platforms that collect data from various sources on the internet and provide a centralized location for information, such as Googel News, Feedly, Flipboard, and more.
- They might have already gathered information about your digital footprint.
- Google Alerts
- Create Google Alerts to keep an eye on your name online.
- You’ll get a notification whenever your name pops up in new online content.
Tips to Protect Your Digital Footprints
While you can’t eliminate your entire digital footprint, you can take steps to protect it. Here are some best practices to help protect your online identity:
- Avoid oversharing on social media websites and public forums. Do not share information that could be linked to you, like your home address, phone number, and date of birth unless necessary.
- Delete any information you do not want social media services to store on their end if you’ve already provided it. Additionally, delete any accounts, posts, pictures, or videos you no longer want to be associated with.
- Review the privacy settings for all your online accounts to limit the amount of data that is collected and shared.
- Consider deleting accounts you are not using anymore.
- When signing up for online services that need your personal information, use an alternate email address or a pseudonym.
- When surfing online, use a private browser or a VPN to prevent third-party services from tracking your online activity.
- Remove any data stored on your device regularly. Clear your browser history, cache, and cookies.
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