Thursday, March 4, 2021

How to Take Control of Your Digital Footprint

Never before have our lives been so intertwined with the Internet. Over the past year, it is has become the one thing that keeps us connected. And it has kept the world running by replacing face-to-face transactions with electronic ones. For that, it has been a godsend. But on the other hand, it has helped to give many of us a rather enormous digital footprint.

Your digital footprint is essentially the trail of data you leave behind on your travels through the Internet. It could be intentional, such as posting on social media or creating an online bank account. Or it could be passive, with bits of data pointing to everywhere you’ve visited online.

Fortunately, you can take control of pretty much all the data that comprises your digital footprint. By taking just a few minutes to complete the following steps, you can better keep your data private and secure.

1. Unsubscribe from Things You Don’t Want

In the course of browsing social media and online shopping, you may sign up for the odd newsletter or marketing email. Over time, this kind of correspondence can really add up and clutter your email.

Yes, you could just send these emails to your spam folder, but why have them come at all? If you keep getting communications that you don’t care about or need anymore, it’s just as easy to unsubscribe from them altogether. In just a few minutes a day over the course of a week, you can clean things up in your inbox immensely, not to mention lightening your digital footprint.

2. Clean Up Your Passwords

While you’re already in the process of cleaning things up, it’s as good a time as any to tidy up all your various passwords. One of the easiest ways to do this is by gathering all of your log-in information together in a password manager.

Not only can a password manager securely hold your information, saving you the trouble of having to remember each and every password you may have, it can actually help you to make your passwords even more secure. If you use the same password across multiple accounts, a password manager can recommend and create unique passwords for each. This helps to make each account much more secure.

3. Clear Search and Browser History

Uncleared search and browser histories have spilled secrets for decades. But beyond revealing an embarrassing website you might have visited, clearing these histories can also help a lot in tidying up your digital footprint and improving your device’s performance.

Your search history is held on your search engine of choice (Google, Bing, etc.). This is data that the search engine can use to tailor advertising and site recommendations to you. This could feel icky to you, from a privacy perspective. Not to mention the possibility of what could happen if a data breach occurs. Then, your data is in the hands of hackers. Fortunately, it’s usually pretty easy to clear your search history periodically. Simply log-in to your account and go to its settings to see and then clear your search history.

Browser history is similar, in that it also shows where you’ve been. But this data is stored on your browser (Chrome, Firefox, etc.). To clear this history, you can typically find access to the browser’s settings either next to or right below a search bar. From there, it’s as simple as finding “History” and then, “Clear History.”

4. Clear Cookies and Cache

Cookies are pieces of data that sites collect to provide you with a tailored experience, remember items in your shopping cart, keep you signed in, etc. They are meant to make the site experience smoother and more convenient. Your cache remembers things like images, videos, and so forth, in order to improve sites’ loading times. But as with your histories, they can also leave you vulnerable.

Some browsers may allow you to clear your cookies and cache at the same time as your browsing history. You just choose how far you want to go, or you can clear things out completely.

Clearing your cookies and cache will result in small hiccups the next time you get online. Saved passwords will have to be reentered, and sites may take a bit longer to load than before. But the peace of mind you can get from clearing your information should more than make up for these minor inconveniences.

5. Think Before You Post

For many, the biggest contributors to a digital footprint are the photos, posts, and other pieces of content put up on social media. While this is usually information that you are comfortable sharing, it pays to be mindful of exactly what you’re putting out there…and how it could potentially be used against you.

So, in this final step toward digital footprint control, we recommend briefly–but honestly–analyzing what elements of your privacy or safety you might be compromising by posting something. If you determine it’s nothing, that’s fantastic! But if there could be something, holding off could have greater positive ramifications than any number of “likes” you may get.

For more tips and advice about how to protect your data and identity online, check out the multiple articles on the subject on the PeopleFinders blog.

Photo credit: Profit_Image –

Nissa has been the Digital Copywriter for PeopleFinders since 2018. She loves researching new topics, and then providing readers with information that is (hopefully) interesting and helpful.

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