Although you may never have thought about it, the truth is that you daily leave digital footprints that add up and can trace back to you, in case someone wishes to access your personal information. So, given the fact that the Internet is used by the vast majority of people all over the world, it is only fair that every single one of the Internet users gets thoroughly educated on how to erase their digital footprint. This is a crucial step towards remaining anonymous online and keeping all the threats at bay.
Even if you might believe that cookies can be harmless or that leaving your email account logged in at all times is convenient, you ought to know better! If you are scholastic about the process of wiping all the traces that you have left by mistake, you will realize that there really is nothing to it; you just have to make sure that you think of all the possible weaknesses during your web surfing and return to erase the marks that will potentially reveal important details about you and your privacy.
Due to the growing dangers of online advertising tactics and thanks to the sophistication of the experts working in the field of technology, tracking software and other tools of this sort have become exceptionally dangerous and effective at the same time. In avoidance of severe negative consequences and in the aim of educating people on the importance of eliminating the dangers caused by such methods, the Network Advertising Initiative has been established. Their goal is to succeed in “building consumer awareness and establishing responsible business and data management practices and standards”.
Now, let’s have a closer look at what constitutes a digital footprint – so that we know what we are dealing with!
What Are Digital Footprints?
We have referred to the digital footprints earlier, but it would be best to add some examples of digital traces left behind by us without us knowing. When we log in to our Facebook account and we update our status or when we check our emails with the respective application, when we head to YouTube and watch a video or when we read the sports column at a website, when we search for specific clothing or when we type keywords at the search engines, we automatically feed the beast of tracking. This definitely sounds shocking, as there is literally nothing that we do online that does not make us more exposed to those who seek to grab the opportunity and learn more about us.
What happens if our digital footprints grow bigger and bigger? Who takes advantage of such information and is it so bad to leave these traces appear online?
What Effects Do Digital Footprints Have?
Now that we have set our mind at what a digital footprint is, we have to see what the impact of these details is in the long run. It goes without even saying that such data piles up and becomes stronger by the minute. The details then can be used for targeting online advertising in the most suitable manner for maximizing the effect of each ad, as well as gaining personal information of yours without your consent.
If you wish to become well aware of the extent of exposure that you have been suffering thanks to digital footprints, there are several tools that can help you out. First of all, there is Google Alarm that you can download for free. This allows you to spot Google every single time there is an effort made on its part towards tracking you down. You know that Google has been collecting data and it has been accused for doing so in various occasions. Another option for folks was the Digital Footprint Calculator from EMC, but it’s been discontinued from them now. Last but not least, the Network Advertising Initiative has issued guidelines alarming you on the issue of online spying and scanning your system towards finding out important information.
In general, you can be pretty sure that almost every single website you visit adds to the overall exposure of yours and helps trace back to you somehow. This is why you need to take a stand and come up with the most effective ways to erase your digital footprint. Let’s break it down and show you how you can do that promptly and efficiently, shall we?
How to Delete Digital Footprints
You ought to be kept vigilant about the privacy breaches that derive from your web surfing experience every single time. This does not mean that you are discouraged from using the Internet as a whole; on the contrary, the Internet should be celebrated as a powerful and versatile tool that can be used for innumerable things in life. Still, you ought to beware of the consequences and eliminate any threats. Here is how you can do that:
- Adjust Facebook Privacy Settings: Facebook is among the most popular social media platforms worldwide. Most of your friends, family and acquaintances have a Facebook account and it is almost impossible for you to avoid getting online and checking your FB. In order to be kept safe, you need to go to the Privacy tab from Settings and turn everything to private. In this way, you can control who sees your posts and the files that you share; additionally, you control who can look you up on Facebook.
- Delete Everything You Do Not Use: Sometimes you forget about an account, as soon as your interest in the specific service wears out. Since everything you do online remains intact (scripta manent), you are strongly advised to delete any old account that you may have. This includes your blog on WordPress or blogspot, as much as social media that you no longer use.
- Unsubscribe from Mailing Lists: This can be truly helpful, in case you want to stop being spotted online. Your digital footprint is directly linked to the patterns of yours and the things that you are interested in the most. As a result, unsubscribing from mailing lists can be proven essential for laying low and avoiding being tracked down for your interest in a specific store etc.
- Search Your Name Online: Another tool that you can use in your effort to remove your digital footprint is the search engine of your preference. For most people, this is Google search engine. Look your name up on Google and check the results that appear online. This can guide you as to which data needs to be cleaned on the web. You will be surprised at what you can come up with – but please, continue to do so from time to time!
- Use a Second E-mail Account Online: There are plenty of websites that require an e-mail account on your behalf, in order to allow you to access their content. This happens if you are prompted to sign up for their newsletter or for completing a purchase. In case you want to do that but you do not wish to expose your true identity, having a second e-mail account can come in handy!
- Cover Your Tracks Online for Anonymity: There have been ongoing revelations linking the Government and other sources to online surveillance projects. So, it is only fair that you learn how you can defend yourself without compromising your web experience. In case you want to surf the web anonymously, there are multiple methods to use. The VPN encrypts your data and offers anonymity, while there are also Internet Explorer InPrivate Browsing, Chrome Incognito and Firefox Private Window.
- Check through Your E-Commerce Accounts: It is no secret that e-commerce accounts can lead to data interception and other malicious acts against you. This is why you need to think twice before leaving such an account undeleted, even though you no longer purchase things from the specific store. So, stop by eBay and Amazon, as well as all the other e-commerce accounts that you may hold and do your best to leave no trace behind!
- Remove Your Photos on Social Media: This is another method that will help you erasing your digital footprint. Social media platforms have been flooded with pictures and some of them might be yours. It is best for you to remove them and especially to accounts that are no longer in use. Of course, it is equally important for you to track down the pictures you are tagged in and follow the same process (either request their removal or at least un-tag yourself from them).
- Delete Forum Posts: It is perfectly understandable why you may have the need to express yourself online via forums. Nevertheless, such interaction can lead to grave digital footprints being left behind. Unless you use a nickname and a fake e-mail account, you are encouraged to delete forum posts that can compromise your privacy online.
- Erase Your Blogger Account: As it has been stated above, you should consider letting go of your blogging activity. If you want to be kept thoroughly protected and out of reach online, you should forget about your Blogger account.
Online privacy is not too good to be true. If you are serious about your protection while you are surfing the web, you should read through the guidelines that we have outlined above and learn everything about how to erase your digital footprint. Your safety is in your hands and you are motivated to do everything in your power to remain thoroughly protected at all times!
Top/Featured Image: By andy_5322 / Flickr