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What is a digital footprint?
Your digital footprint is all of your personal information that remains on the internet as a result of online activity. It’s kind of like a trail of breadcrumbs that you leave when using the internet, including the websites you’ve been to, the adverts you’ve clicked, the information you’ve submitted, and more.
Your digital footprint usually increases with obvious actions like leaving online reviews or posting to social media. However, there are many other covert ways that websites and apps collect your data. For example, most websites leave cookies in your browser that collate much more information about you than just what you did on their website.
This digital trail links your personal activity to your IP address and allows marketers, insurers, law enforcement, and other organizations to create a profile based on your habits, behavior, and demographics. Mostly, this information is then used to target you with personalized adverts that you are more likely to click.
In summary, your digital footprint gives people the ability to see where you’ve been on the internet. But unlike real footprints, a digital footprint can be permanent.
Is a digital footprint good or bad?
A digital footprint isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It can be used to deliver a personalized experience that predicts your wants and needs, makes browsing easier, and helps to create a more efficient and pleasant interaction on the internet.
However, it also creates several vulnerabilities that can be exploited against your will.
Digital footprints can be dangerous because:
- Your digital footprint can define your online reputation which employers (and other organizations) can check before deciding to hire you (or interact with you)
- Cybercriminals can access your personal information and steal your identity, gain account access, or blackmail you
- You have little to no control over how your data is used and it will remain online and accessible indefinitely
Because of these reasons, it’s worth reducing digital footprints and taking steps to protect your information online. Here’s how you can do that.
How to reduce your digital footprint
There are several things you can do to reduce your digital footprint. It comes down to limiting what you share and what information you let websites hold onto. If you can mask your activity or prevent it from being linked to your name, you can massively reduce your footprint and remain more anonymous online.
Here’s how to protect your digital footprint:
- Limit the amount of data you share willingly: Try to avoid providing personal information to websites or organizations, except when you have to. This means limiting social media usage and cutting down on what you like, share, and post. It also means skipping questionnaires and forms on the websites you visit.
- Increase your privacy settings: Your settings on social media and in your web browser allow you to take increased control over who can view and access your personal information. On social media, you are able to limit those who can see your activity to friends only. Similarly, web browsers can now actively block tracking cookies and other stealthy information-gathering processes.
- Avoid untrustworthy websites: You should only access websites that are preceded by HTTPS rather than the older HTTP as this includes an added level of security that can help protect your data. Clario’s web protection, available as a Safari and Chrome extension, helps identify whether a website is trustworthy so you can avoid malicious links.
- Delete old accounts: Old email and social media accounts, website user accounts, and newsletter subscriptions can put your data at risk, especially if you use the same password across multiple sites. Deleting these accounts prevents malicious actors from gathering your data (or password).
- Keep your logins separate: When you log in to websites using Facebook, Google, or another social media account, you give that website permission to mine your user data. This increases your digital footprint and gives unknown third parties access to your personal information, making your data vulnerable to data leaks.
- Uninstall unnecessary apps and deny permissions: Keeping your phone as simple and clean as possible helps reduce risk and manage your digital footprint. Only keep the apps you need, and only provide those apps with the permissions they need to function. Also try to turn off location services when you don’t need them, as this will prevent apps from learning your residence, workplace, and daily habits.
- Use a VPN: An easy way to cover your digital footprint is by obscuring your activity online. A VPN (or Virtual Private Network) helps you do this by masking your IP address, making your activity online nearly untraceable. Clario’s unlimited secure VPN helps protect your data and makes your IP address anonymous.
Privacy is paramount
In today’s world, everyone is trying to find out more about you through the internet. Whether this is to sell more effectively or for more nefarious reasons, many people want to protect their data, manage their digital footprint, and remain more anonymous online.
In addition to these digital footprint tips, Clario’s all-in-one bundle for MacOS, iOS, and Android can help you protect your personal information and reduce your digital footprint every time you go online.
Clario helps you:
- Detect malicious apps with a built-in antivirus
- Connect privately and securely with a VPN
- Prevent trackers and apps from following your activity online
- Monitor for data breaches
- Access 24/7 support from security experts