Anywhere you go, and anything you do online leaves a trail that someone could track. It is your digital footprint, and it can tell quite the story if you don’t take precautions. While most people have no real reasons to hide any of their online activities, it is still nice to have some control and privacy.
Every site you visit online has one form or another of data tracking going on. It is almost impossible to avoid it. Even if you use a VPN service and browse through a private browser, you cannot block everything used to track you. But you can limit the information that you leave lying around.
Digital Footprints: What Are They?
The basic definition of a digital footprint would be all the information you leave behind when you do anything online. Browsers and online platforms can track every search, every click, and every link opened. It could be Google looking for ways to customize advertising, your ISP monitoring the sites you visit, or Facebook gathering location information.
The main thing to take from this is that someone can watch everything you do online. The sheer volume of information that these companies have can be mind-blowing. So you must be careful. Digital footprints fall into two main categories, which are explained below.
Active Versus Passive Digital Footprints
When talking about your online digital footprint, there are two main ways that you can leave one:
- Your active footprintsrefer to everything that you are actively doing while online. It can be having discussions on various forums, signing up for email lists or contests, or adding goods to the shopping cart on Amazon. You are aware of inputting the information, thus leaving active footprints.
Why Does It Matter?
You may be asking yourself why you should care about online services collecting all that information. While most things that you do are not going to cause any harm, you never know what they use your information for. There is also the ever-growing threat that is cybercrime. The less of your data is available to take, the better.
For example, say you have recently purchased something on a website. If someone steals the information the retailer has collected, it could cause some issues. It could contain addresses, emails, personal data, and even banking information. Best case scenario, you’d receive lots of spam and scam emails. Worst case? Cybercriminals would use your information to hack your other accounts, steal your identity, or buy things with your credit card. So you must take extra precautions to make sure you limit your footprints.
How to Stay Protected?
There are many different things you can do to lower the size of the digital footprint you are leaving online:
- Connect to a virtual private network (VPN)
- Manage your online settings
- Use privacy-focused services
Connect to a VPN
You should start by finding a reputable VPN service to use, as they provide immediate privacy protection. A virtual private network allows you to connect to its servers. That’s where all your sent and received information are thoroughly encrypted.
A VPN is also going to give you the ability to spoof your virtual location through the use of different IP addresses. You can get various other perks with this feature, including masking your digital footprints. Websites won’t be able to connect your browsing histYou can sign-up for a premium VPN service for an affordable price if you shop around.
Manage Online Settings
While tools are being developed to help you manage your online footprints better, there is nothing foolproof yet. Make sure to check all your security settings and only allow for tracking of information that is a must to ensure a smooth online experience. You can restrict access, and you must do what you can.
Use Privacy-Focused Services
Everyone knows which services collect most data. Facebook and Google are the winners in this regard. But no one is forcing you to use them. Many alternatives are more privacy-focused. You can always use DuckDuckGo instead of Google search, Brave instead of Google Chrome, and Telegram instead of Facebook Messenger. These services don’t track your data, so you leave less digital footprint if you use them.
Hide Your Tracks
Corporations and organizations are becoming purveyors of information. They use data for their needs or share it with third parties. Data is also a worldwide currency these days as criminals and companies alike sell and trade it like it was gold. With the sophistication of tracking technology growing, it has never been more important to cover your tracks. Keep alert and aware, use the tools available for protection, and keep your footprint as light as possible.