Every time you connect to the internet, whether you do it from your PC, smartphone, or any other device, you are leaving a trail of information about yourself.
From online shopping, liking something on social media, sharing your thoughts to googling the number to call Spectrum call center. Nearly everything is creating a digital footprint. If you think about it, your mind will spiral. It’s alarming indeed!
While it’s nearly hard to totally prohibit firms from tracking your online activities, there are a few things you can do to protect your personal information. Let’s explore them:
1: Use Anti-Blocking and Anti-Tracking Tools
Adblock Plus and Ghostery are a few examples of apps that can prevent trackers from gathering information from your browser as you navigate from one website to another. It’s simple to use them. You just have to install the plugin and let it take care of everything on its own.
These tools work by blocking cookies. They also can prevent ads from loading on websites you visit, identify third-party trackers, and ensure that third parties you have blocked don’t have access to your personal information.
2: Switch to a Safer Search Engine
It’s high time you look for another search engine because Google has extensive data profiles on all its users.
In fact, Google collects data on you and sells this information to the highest bidder for targeted adverts. Switch to search engines like Startpage or DuckDuckGo. They don’t save users’ information or search history.
3: Check The Privacy Settings of Every Digital Device or App You Use
Check the privacy settings of all the apps, and devices you use. Even that of your smartphone. see if there are any that limit the amount of information that can be gathered and shared about you.
For example, if you can turn off location tracking, toggle it off to protect personal data, regardless of where you are and when you are using your device.
4: Use Social Media Carefully
Although social networking platforms can easily collect data on your interactions with friends, status updates, and the brands, celebrities, or influencers you follow, some settings help you limit the amount of data they collect.
Making your profile private and preventing it from appearing in search engine results when people search for you can also be beneficial because it restricts who can see it. Make sure you don’t share extra information in your bio like your complete date of birth. Also, don’t make your pictures public.
Adding check-ins may be popular these days but it means you are leaving a digital trail about where you are and where you have been. Not only are you giving away information to companies that collect data but also strangers. Hence, use social media mindfully.
5: Always Browse the Web With a VPN
A VPN keeps the information you exchange private and anonymous. It’s not only best to connect to a VPN when accessing a public network like the one in a coffee shop but also when browsing at home.
The job of a VPN is to encrypt your data and route your network traffic through a new virtual network in a different place. It prevents websites from gathering your IP address or actual physical location, both of which are frequently used to create digital footprints.
6: Read the Terms and Conditions
Since most people don’t read such documents, some companies add such terms that provide them with a loophole for capturing private user data. To stay safe, always read the policy documents. What about the terms with difficult jargon? No worries, use tools like the Privacy Monitor to check the privacy score of a website or app before using it. This score will give you a sense of time and money a company has put into protecting your privacy.
7: Shield Your Email Address
For good reason, email addresses are quite high in demand when it comes to collecting data on users. Although most people only have a few email addresses, they are connected to a least one online account.
How do you prevent this from happening? Well, if you only have one official email address for all of your internet activities, it can be linked back to you and can be highly useful for gathering information about you. a simple solution is to create a second email address (other than your personal one) and connect it to your online account. There is no harm in creating multiple email addresses and linking them to different accounts (if you can easily keep track of everything).
Alternatively, use tools like Firefox Relay to protect your personal email. This tool creates an email alias that forwards to your inbox with a single click, keeping your true email address confidential.