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August 20, 2020

6 Ways to Effectively Reduce Your Digital Footprint

The internet is the number one resource of information for many people. Unfortunately, it doesn’t only distribute information but collects it as well. There are hundreds of sites and services that collect pieces of your data. If you use them, you will leave a trail of crumbs that quickly leads back to you.

If this makes you feel uncomfortable while rewinding all the online places you visit on a regular basis, don’t despair. There are several ways to reduce your digital footprint. Here is what you can do to protect your personal information and improve your online security and privacy.

Say No to Optional Forms

When creating accounts online, you typically need to complete a form. Most of the forms have “required” fields you have to fill to create an account or start using the platform’s services. The other fields are called “optional.” Their purpose is to collect more information about you to make your profile appear complete or to enable you to receive personalized offers and suggestions.

If you want to use an online service and minimize the digital footprint at the same time, don’t fill out the optional form fields. This especially applies to account creation on social media platforms. The less personal information you disclose, the better.

Deactivate Old Email Accounts

If you have old email accounts that you don’t use anymore, you should consider deactivating them. While they are unused, it’s most likely that they harbor at least some piece of your personal and sensitive data. Maybe you’ve used one of them as an email for e-banking or to do business.

If someone breaches into your old email account, your data will be at their disposal. And since you are not using them, it is impossible to notice that somebody else took hold of any of them. The process of email account cancelation is simple. You need to trace back your steps to identify and deactivate the ones that you don’t use.

Use Virtual Private Network

Virtual Private Network, or simply VPN, is often advertised as an online service that can help you access geo-blocked video and audio streaming services. However, it is so much more than that. A VPN encrypts all data that you send and receive, thus making it unusable to anyone who manages to steal it.

Besides encrypting all your online communications, a VPN also masks your true IP address and makes it impossible for anyone to find your physical address. A quality VPN mobile app will also let you stay protected when traveling. This can be handy if you regularly use unprotected public Wi-Fi networks at airports, restaurants, and cafes. Since smartphones are essential gadgets we carry everywhere, you need to secure them as well.

Don’t Install Suspicious Apps on Your Smartphone

Both Google Play Store and Apple (News - Alert) App Store are packed with thousands of apps. Both platforms are continuously working to improve security. However, every now and then, insecure apps slip through. You should exercise caution when installing apps on your smartphone. Apps can have access to your contact list, messages, camera, and mic. This enables them to collect and send your private data.

If you are installing a game and it asks you to allow it to access your contact list, it should raise a red flag. To minimize the digital footprint, you should use smartphone apps that don’t require you to share your data. While we are at it, make sure to lock your phone and accounts with strong passwords.

Revisit Your Email Subscriptions

If anything can clutter your inbox, then it is all those email newsletters and offers. A cluttered inbox is only one side of the problem. It means that you have shared your email and possibly other private information with all those companies. Did you read their data privacy policy? Are you sure they are not going to share your data with third parties?

The goal is to reduce your digital footprint. To do it, you will have to unsubscribe for as many lists as possible. Leave only the ones that actually matter to you and say goodbye to lists that don’t interest you any longer.

Disable Location Tracking

Location tracking is a really neat feature. It allows you to get the location-based suggestions on your searches. While it is convenient, it will enable location services to track your movement in real-time 24/7.

To minimize your digital footprint, head into your smartphone settings, and disable it. For iPhone (News - Alert), head into Settings > Privacy > Location Services and disable Location Services. For Android, go to Settings > Security & Location > Location and toggle of Use Location feature.

Keep in mind that you’ll always leave a digital footprint when you use the internet. However, the tips we’ve shared with you will help you control how much you want to share so that you can reduce your digital footprint.

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