Everything you do online leaves a data trail called your digital footprint. Every internet user has a unique digital fingerprint that can tell almost anything about their online activities. Every website you visit, every post you post on social media, everything is recorded and remains visible online.
Whether you use the internet for business, entertainment or something else, your online actions contribute to your digital footprint.
What is the digital fingerprint used for?
The data you leave after your online actions can tell third parties, such as advertisers, tracking agencies, and hackers, who you are, what you like best online, and even your financial information.
Some online activities require voluntary disclosure of your information online, such as subscribing to a service, purchasing items online, or sending emails. However, some online services track people and what they do online to obtain their information and store it for various purposes.
Fingerprinting can expose users to various security risks, even from old information that users consider irrelevant. The biggest concern is that third parties and cybercriminals can rely on your digital footprint to track your online behavior and use your personal information against you.
Let’s discuss the information contained in a digital fingerprint and what you can do about it.
Types of personal information in a digital fingerprint
Your digital footprint contains all kinds of information that you intentionally disclose online. This information can be anything from social media comments, photos, blog posts and other types of personal data.
Essentially, a digital fingerprint contains two types of data: active and passive. The first is your personal information that you voluntarily share online. The most common information people deliberately share online includes:
- Social Media Posts, Comments and Messages.
- Website logging identifiers.
- Subscriptions and other similar online forms.
- Accept browser cookies.
Passive data, on the other hand, is something else entirely. It mainly refers to various sensitive details and identifiers that third parties track and collect without your consent. In fact, you won’t even know they collected it.
Online services and third-party websites track passive data, such as:
- How often do people visit websites and pages?
- Your browsing history.
- Website recommendations.
- Your IP address and location.
These days, most websites and online services track your data and online behavior to analyze what you do online and use that knowledge for various purposes.
For example, social networks track the things you share and like and your comments to show you targeted ads and recommended content.
Steps to secure your digital footprint
Although it’s nearly impossible to completely erase your digital footprint, there are things you can do to protect it. Here are some practical steps to consider.
Google can help you better understand your digital footprint by making data readily available to others who may search for you on search engines.
It can present you with both positive and negative results. You should also go through your social media accounts to remove potentially harmful information and update privacy settings.
Avoid oversharing your information online
Avoid sharing your information too much online if you don’t want your sensitive data to be in the wrong hands. Consider the site’s reputation before sharing your contact information to better secure your digital footprint.
Avoid dangerous websites
If a website address does not begin with “HTTPS”, you should avoid visiting it. However, the most important thing is not to reveal any sensitive information to these websites. Above all, do not make any purchases and do not disclose any banking information.
Never share sensitive information on public Wi-Fi
If you must use public Wi-Fi, avoid sharing sensitive information and personal details. Public Wi-Fi networks are great for hackers to intercept your online traffic and get their hands on your private information. If you must use public Wi-Fi, always connect through a VPN.
Use a Virtual Private Network
A VPN provides a secure connection and hides your IP address and location so that hackers cannot intercept or track your online activities. We recommend that you always use a VPN, even at home, as it’s one of the easiest ways to browse the web without worrying about security and anonymity.
One of its biggest advantages is that a VPN hides your IP address. You can find out what your IP address is and see the details attached to it. More importantly, it exposes your location to all web entities.
Make sure your security is up to date
The last thing to check is the security of your software. Make sure all your devices are updated with the latest security measures and don’t forget to update your antivirus and anti-malware protection.
New software updates are released regularly, so your devices update automatically or you can check periodically manually.
While you can’t completely remove your digital footprint from the web, there are many different things you can do to keep it to a minimum.
If you enjoy shopping online and using mobile banking apps, you should limit the amount of information you share online.
Make sure your internet connection is secure and pay close attention to the reputation of the websites and online services you use.