Reducing Your Digital Footprint

Reducing your Digital Footprint

How many newsletters have you signed up for? How many social media accounts do you use? And how often are you surfing Internet watching random YouTube videos or doing research? Whether you like it or not almost every activity on the Internet contributes to your digital footprint, i.e., what traces of your real-life identity are visible on the world wide web. While some personal information you give out willingly there are some sites that have a lot more information about you than you probably are okay with.

Read below for some tips to reducing your digital footprint and downsizing the amount of private information the public has access to.

Social Media

Social Media is what a majority of individuals use the internet for in the first place, it stands to reason that your favorite apps may have more information on you than they need. Apps like Instagram, twitter, and especially Facebook may have access to information including full names, addresses, phone numbers, birthday’s etc. This means that before you can start reducing your footprint you need to know what your social media has access to in the first place. In Facebook’s “settings” tab users have the ability to download all of the personal data the company has based off of your account. This can be useful to see what you’re okay with Facebook having and what you would like to keep private. Similarly, Twitter also has a feature that can provide you with the report of what information they currently have on you. Like Facebook this feature is located in Twitter’s “settings” tab as well. You can also turn all of your public social media accounts into private ones. This allows you direct control over who is following you and who can view you online profile. Most social media platforms include this feature in privacy settings.

Another concerning piece of information that social media may have access to is your location. Companies like Facebook or Instagram use location services to enable users to tag a particular post with a location that it applies to. For instance, if you want to post a photo of your family at the Grand Canyon, Facebook may use your location to help you personalize you post with the exact location the picture was taken. You can turn this setting of by denying access to your location in the “location tab” of Facebook. You can also deny location access to other apps such as Instagram or Twitter through the app itself of your device’s privacy settings.

If you truly don’t want social media having access to anything you can always delete, your account entirely. On Facebook and Twitter this setting is located under “Settings and Privacy”. If you aren’t sure you want to entirely delete your account, you can always temporarily “deactivate” your accounts on some social media platforms.

Mailing Lists and Newsletters

Over the years you have probably used your email address to subscribe to countless newsletters and companies promoting various products. A smart idea is the take stock of what newsletters and email lists you want to be a part of and which ones you can drop. You could do this manually or use websites like unroll.me to see what newsletters you’re currently subscribed to. Differentiating between your personal email and a separate spam email for those shopping newsletters can help you limit what data these companies have access to.

Search Engines

Search engines like Google, Yahoo, and Bing can be used to see what public information is available on you. By doing a simple Google search you can ascertain what social media accounts, website domains, or YouTube videos have your personal data on display. From here you start to sift through what accounts need to be deleted and what you are okay with being public. As of April 2022, Google is taking steps to enable users to request certain information be removed from the browser. Examples of personally identifiable information include photos, bank account numbers, personal contact information, login credentials, etc.

Google also has implemented multiple security controls that you can enable on your devices to help protect your data. If you log into your Google Accounts page you can limit data collection, set privacy restrictions, and remove your accounts from the search engine entirely. Utilizing tools like Privacy checkup, Security checkup, and delete me from the Google Accounts applications to reduce your digital footprint in the Google environment.

VPN

Using a VPN or “virtual private network” you can reduce your digital footprint by adding an extra layer of protection to your network. VPN’s are used to keep outsiders or ISP’s from seeing your network traffic. Apps and websites often track your background data to use for marketing and selling purposes. Using one of the may VPN’s on the market can help reduce your footprint through encryption methods proven to hide your web traffic and personal data.

Whether you like it or not you probably have more data on the internet than you’d like. While it may not be completely impossible to remove yourself from the internet you CAN take steps to reduce your digital footprint and control what the public has access to.

CorpInfoTech (Corporate Information Technologies) provides small to mid-market organizations with expert I.T. services including compliance assessment, cybersecurity penetration tests, and comprehensive business continuity planning services. Corporate Information Technologies can help organizations, quantify, create, refine, and mitigate the risks presented by business threatening disasters in whatever form they may be disguised.

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