Online privacy is a debate across the globe, and from digital rights activists to general users, everyone is worried about the unauthorized use of personal and financial data. Internet users often, voluntarily and unknowingly, share critical data about themselves, which cybercriminals use to carry out various crimes like tracking and hacking. Let’s explore how exactly you can reveal less about yourself online.
An overview of digital footprints
A digital footprint can be active or passive. An active footprint is information you share voluntarily, like pictures on social media. On the other hand, the passive footprint is the information that your internet browsing device reveals, like your IP address.
Companies often use passive information for marketing purposes like targeted ads, which aren’t too problematic. However, active footprints can be damaging. For instance, criminals can track and research your lifestyle using social media posts and use the data for phishing attacks. It all relates to the fact that people tend to overshare on social media, leading to valuable information becoming available to anyone.
Possible to minimize the digital footprint
You must understand that becoming completely anonymous online is not exactly possible. However, you can always keep a tab on how many footprints you intend to leave online to protect your privacy. Companies are always looking for new ways to track users, and preventing them is simply impossible. However, there are several smart ways to reduce your digital footprint, thereby stonewalling all attempts to access unauthorized data.
Delete unused or dormant online accounts
Many online service providers and websites won’t delete personal details of users/customers until and unless explicitly asked to do so via email. On the other hand, some social media platforms and forums allow users to edit their account information or completely delete their accounts. Deleting all unused or dormant accounts is an excellent way of reducing your digital footprint.
Avoid sharing your email address
Irrespective of whether you’re signing up for a new online service or placing an inquiry on a website, you’ll be asked to share your email address. A smart way of ensuring your online safety is by providing a secondary email address. Do not use your primary email address to prevent unsolicited emails and cybercrime traps.
Another smart way to avoid sharing a primary email address is to create an anonymous email account. You can provide this email address to sign up for services you don’t intend to use repeatedly.
Provide fake information
Well, it is a clever move only if you have the liberty of providing fake information for the service you’re signing up for. There is no way service providers can verify the information you provide. However, you should never use these tactics while signing up for banking or financial services or paying for products or services.
Do not log in with your Facebook login
Most websites and online service providers give the option of signing up using Facebook credentials. However, you must always avoid using your Facebook credentials to sign up for a service, as that would lead to sharing the information with the website owner or a third party.
Double-check privacy settings
Every time you share personal information on your social media account, the default settings allow it to be shared across the board. However, if you don’t intend to do this, you can always change your privacy settings. You can choose to share your personal information with only a select few by changing the privacy settings.
Avoid sharing too much personal information
Scamsters and cybercriminals are on the lookout for users’ personal information, so it’s unwise to share too much information that can be used for phishing attacks or scams.
Use a Virtual Private Network (VPN) service
The safest way to browse the internet is to use tools that help you stay under the radar. A VPN is one such tool that prevents unnecessary IP tracking and safeguards data on unsafe networks or websites. Thus, download VPN tools to protect your online activities with end-to-end encryption, thwarting most eavesdropping attempts. It can also offer other benefits, like blocking ads or phishing websites.
Digital footprint under control
Digital footprints are something most users might not even think about. However, it is important to know just how much data you share online. While you can limit the data you reveal on social media, stopping passive footprints requires more effort. Luckily, there are some tools that can help you minimize the data you share without even realizing it.