Digital Footprint Checker: How to Control Your Data
The more time we spend on the internet, the more information we leave there about ourselves, sometimes without even realizing it. With access to posts, comments, online activity, and browser history, anyone can form a fairly accurate digital portrait of a user. This is used both by companies to analyze their audience and sell goods, and by intruders.
We will tell you what a digital footprint checker is and how you can ensure that the internet remembers less information about you.
How to disappear from the internet – learn more here.
What is a digital footprint?
A digital footprint is all the data that a user leaves on the internet. This can be posts and comments on social networks, a work email address, a Google search history, or products in an online store basket. Most often the term is used concerning ordinary users of the network.
The digital footprint can be active or passive. In the first case, users leave information about themselves intentionally, for example, writing a comment under a video on YouTube or filling out a profile on Facebook. The more posts or photos you publish, the more noticeable your digital footprint becomes. It grows like a snowball: information remains online for years, especially when it comes to large platforms that are unlikely to be closed or removed from the internet.
The passive trace is more difficult: it appears without the person’s knowledge. Information about the user is collected using various tools, for example through advertising trackers, cookies, and fingerprints.
A fingerprint is a digital print of a user, a tool that identifies a person based on browser and device settings. First, a fingerprint is needed so that the sites are displayed correctly. Data is transmitted about the screen resolution, operating system, location, and language settings. All these details form a unique impression.
You can find out what information sites collect about you using special applications:
- Cover Your Tracks analyzes online tracking and the uniqueness of your footprint. The test simulates the loading of several activity trackers and determines the level of protection against tracking. The service provides a detailed report on the uniqueness of a digital footprint. High uniqueness distinguishes the user from the rest — so it can be more accurately identified.
- Whoer is a service for checking the information that your browser transmits to the internet. After completing the test, the app will show how anonymous you are online.
- Clickclickclick is a small game that clearly shows how any user actions are tracked and analyzed on a regular site.
Advertising trackers are special tools that collect and identify information about users for analytics and personalized advertising. With their help, marketers learn how people interact with content on the internet. Most often they are embedded in websites with the consent of the owners. But some fraudulent trackers transmit information to third parties. They are often masked to avoid being blocked by browsers.
What do you need to know about digital footprint checkers?
It is unlikely that it will be possible not to leave a digital footprint at all in the modern world: you just won’t be able to use the internet properly. But it is necessary to share data with caution. That’s the important thing to remember when going online.
Digital traces are not easy to reduce. If you have published some information on social networks, you can no longer fully control its distribution. Even if you later deleted everything, photos can be uploaded in advance to databases or third-party resources. And posts may disperse in the form of screenshots or text on other sites.
Each action complements the characteristics of your digital personality. Online platforms create and update profiles for personalized advertising. Other people will judge you by the old posts and photos they find. Some of these things are invisible, while others can be discovered by a couple of actions in Google.
Digital footprints help scammers. Criminals use the traces to phish or access accounts. After that, it is easier for them, for example, to extort money from the user’s friends.
The most obvious mistake is to leave your phone number or address publicly available. Less obvious is the risk of publishing your mother’s maiden name or the nickname of a pet: often this kind of data is used for verification questions when trying to get into an account.
How to reduce your digital footprint
Use only protected and trusted internet tools like Utopia P2P. Utopia P2P is an anonymous and decentralized ecosystem that ensures the privacy and security of each user. Registration and use are anonymous and free of charge. Inside the ecosystem, there are tools for messaging, file sharing, browsing, gaming, etc.
Read more about the ecosystem here.
Reduce the number of sources of information about you. If you stopped using your old social media accounts or stopped sitting on an ancient forum, it’s better to delete posts and profiles there.
Check your privacy settings. Most social networks allow you to regulate the privacy of the page: completely hide it from the internet, make it available only to friends, or publish individual posts for certain people.
It is possible to reduce the digital footprint. Both your actions aimed at ensuring security on the internet and technical devices will help to do this.
Check what the internet already knows about you. Enter your full name or alias into a search engine — this way, you will understand what people who are trying to find out something about you on the web see foremost.
You can also evaluate what advertising portrait for personalized advertising you have already developed. It includes age, gender, and main hobbies, which are recorded based on your online activity. For example, Google has this function — you can get acquainted with it on a special page.
Use a browser that cares about your privacy, namely one that rejects third-party cookies. For example, Safari and Firefox do this by default. You can see what browsers have blocked for you in the privacy report.
Add extensions to your browser to block trackers. Suitable programs such as Privacy Badger, Ghostery, and Privacy Essentials DuckDuckGo.
Do not publish too much information on social networks and messengers. This is especially true for data that should be disclosed with caution, for example, about trips or prolonged absences from home. And it is better not to reveal your phone number or email address to everyone.
Pay attention to the forms and applications that you fill out on the internet. We share a lot of information absolutely voluntarily and this way we make our digital portrait richer and more detailed. Some data — for example related to finances — should not be reported at all. Therefore, before you fill out any form or questionnaire, think about whether it is really needed.
Do not log in to websites via social networks. This function is available on almost any portal. This is very convenient, but at the same time you give the site more information about yourself and become not just a user, but a user with your favorite music, specific interests, and a pet. Keep an eye on the permissions to access the data that the resources ask for.
Do not go to unprotected sites. If the page address starts with http:// and not https://, then it does not have a security certificate. When visiting, do not leave confidential information there.
Update your devices and programs in a timely manner. Scammers can exploit vulnerabilities in older versions to gain access to your data. It is better not to delay updates if they are out.
Digital traces are very difficult to reduce. Everything that you have ever published on the internet — posts, photos, videos, personal data — can be distributed without your participation, even if you have closed profiles on social networks. But it still makes sense to clean profiles from ambiguous content: future employers or other people who decide to Google you will also judge you by it. If there are old accounts on forums and sites where you are no longer active, contact the administration with a request to delete them.
There are ways to leave fewer digital footprints. Use a browser with advanced privacy settings, and services that disable advertising trackers, do not log in to sites through social media profiles, do not leave your real name, and use email address generators for online accounts so as not to give away your personal one.