When you surf the Internet, you reveal information about yourself. This includes information that you share voluntarily and unintentionally. This is known as your digital fingerprint.
Some people want a digital footprint. For example, they may want to create a personal brand on social media. But for many, it is seen as a negative. The more information available about you online, the easier it is for people to find, track, and commit cybercrime against you.
So how exactly is the digital footprint being developed and how can you reduce it?
The information that makes up a digital fingerprint can be divided into two categories, namely your active fingerprint and your passive fingerprint.
Your active fingerprint is the information you choose to share. It includes your social media posts and any information you add to personal profiles.
Your negative fingerprint is the information that your computer discloses about you; For example, your IP address and your cookies.
Negative fingerprinting is primarily used for marketing purposes. If you don’t mind targeted advertising, it’s not necessarily a problem.
However, an active fingerprint can be harmful to anyone. Neglected social media posts can damage your reputation, and the easier it is to search, the easier it is to carry out phishing attacks against you.
Removing your entire internet footprint is not always practical. Companies like to track users and the process of stopping them is often designed to be time-consuming.
However, there are a number of easy steps you can take to drastically reduce the amount of information you reveal about yourself.
1. Delete unnecessary accounts
Some websites will not remove personal information unless you write an email to them. However, other websites, such as forums and social media platforms, allow you to change your information in seconds and/or delete your account entirely.
This allows most people to significantly reduce their current digital footprint in less than an hour.
2. Do not provide your personal email address
Most online services require an email address before you can use it. But they rarely dictate which email address you need to use. Try to avoid delivering your primary email whenever possible.
You can set up anonymous secondary email accounts very easily. Or provided you don’t plan to use a service frequently, you can sign up with a disposable email provider.
These services allow you to create temporary email addresses without providing any personal information. They are designed to be used once and then automatically deleted.
3. Use of False Information (if legal)
Websites are asking for more personal information than ever before. But very few of them have any way of verifying the information you provide. This means that most services can be used without revealing anything about you.
Obviously, this does not apply if you are paying for something. Payment will not normally be made without your real name and address. But if the service is free, there is no good reason to pay for it with your personal details.
4. Check your privacy settings
If you provide personal information on social media, many platforms will share this information by default. If you are concerned about your digital footprint, this is clearly the opposite of what you want.
Most platforms allow you to hide your information and/or only share it with specific people. Therefore, it is a good idea to go through each of your social media accounts and choose to only share what you feel comfortable with.
5. Don’t login with Facebook
Many websites allow you to sign in with your Google or Facebook account. This is not always for your convenience.
The average Facebook account contains a wealth of personal information, and when you log into a site with your account, that information goes directly to the website owner or is shared with third parties.
If you value your privacy, all these buttons should be avoided.
6. Think before you post
Using a fake name on social media is not necessarily practical. The alternative is to be careful what you talk about.
If the post contains personal information, it can be used for phishing and deception attempts. Many employers are now checking social media activity when deciding who to hire.
7. Protection against data dump
Any website can be hacked. This means that whenever you share your password, it is possible for that password to be published online (although the probability is reduced if the service uses proper encryption). The same applies to your payment details.
Aim to use a different password for each account you create. You should also provide payment information only when absolutely necessary. I’ve been Pwned It allows you to check if your details are already public.
8. Use Windows Incognito Mode
Most popular browsers offer special windows that allow you to visit websites anonymously. This is important because even if you don’t use your real name, the website can still track you by checking the cookies stored on your computer.
When you browse using an incognito window, existing cookies are hidden and new cookies are not created.
9. Use the Privacy Extension
If you don’t want to use a private browsing window, you can also prevent tracking using a browser extension.
Privacy extensions are available for all popular browsers and provide a number of ways to reduce your footprint. For example, some prevent trackers from working and others block websites that are known to log a lot of information about their visitors.
10. Use a VPN
Whenever you visit a website, your IP address is logged. This can be used to determine your approximate location and to identify you when you have frequent visits.
The easiest way to hide your IP address is to use a VPN. A VPN also encrypts all of your web traffic and this protects you from packet sniffing attacks if you are on public Wi-Fi.
You don’t need to read about data privacy laws or use pseudonyms on every website. Instead, you simply need to understand how to create footprints and limit the information you provide where it is easy to do so.
In turn, it becomes very difficult for anyone to use this information against you.
What is the difference between security, anonymity and privacy? And when should you prioritize one over the other?
read the following
About the author