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Managing Your Digital Footprint to Reduce Your Online Exposure

Digital Footprint

In the online world, a digital footprint is the trail and amount of data a person leaves behind on the internet. But unlike in the real world, where a footprint or shoe print doesn’t identify you, a digital footprint does.

You need to be aware of the following:

  • The size and scope of your digital footprint.
  • The risks involved with being too exposed.
  • How to shrink your existing digital footprint.
  • How do you limit the personal information you put online?

Here’s a helpful infographic that puts it into perspective…visually.

7 Ways to Reduce Online Exposure

Your digital footprint can identify you.

If you saw muddy shoe prints outside your front door, it would tell you someone was there. (Also, that they’d walked in the mud!) Physical footprints leave a trail of where a person has been.

Every time you visit a website, you leave a calling card that says, “I’ve been here.”

It’s been happening for however long you have been banking, shopping, researching, and reaching out online.

In short, you may think you’re not leaving behind any traces of your identity when you do all you do online, but the opposite is true.

Bit by bit, you’re telling the world all about yourself and risk exposing your identity online. And that isn’t necessarily a good thing to do.

  • You risk giving people with bad intentions (bad actors) information (bit by bit) that they can use to identify you, pretend to be you, and perhaps steal your identity.
  • You may also tell them enough so they can fool you or others by pretending to know you.

The real issue is most of us don’t think about leaving traces of our lives, digital “breadcrumbs,” all over the internet.

Worst of all, most of us aren’t even aware of what we’re doing or have done. We’ve exposed too much of our identities and personal information online.

Active versus passive digital footprints.

We also don’t realize that sometimes we actively share information with others; other times, information is gathered about us behind the scenes. Some websites see these as active and passive digital footprints.

  • You’ve created an active footprint when you log into social media accounts and post comments or news.
  • Completing online forms or subscribing to an email list is an active footprint.

However, you don’t have to be “active” to share information about yourself and leave a footprint. That’s where passive digital footprints come in.

  • Advertisers, websites, and Internet service providers (ISPs) can track your online interest by examining your IP address.
  • Websites will track how often you visit and what pages you view on their websites.
  • Social media apps and sites track your activity on that app to decide what advertisements they should push on you and what content to recommend.
  • Data brokerages collect consumer data, create databases, and sell information to whoever wants to buy it.  It’s legal.

Eye-opening perspectives about a digital footprint.

If anything, the infographic and this article are getting you to think about all the online information about you. Here are a few more thoughts to consider:

  • Your digital footprint is relatively “permanent,” and much of it is public, thanks to social media. You have little control over how platforms use it.
  • A negative story on social media (true or not) can damage your reputation.
  • Employers often check the digital footprints of job candidates to assess whether the person might be a good fit.
  • Comments or posts long ago may surface one day and cause a problem.
  • Cybercriminals constantly use the internet to track a person’s digital footprint, create a profile, and target them for a scam.
  • Scammers, predators, and sex traffickers often find their victims online through their digital profiles, which they glean from posts and images.

Your digital footprint is following you!

Your online decisions impact your world and your life. Most of us want to believe the internet is a safe place where bad things only happen to bad people and where websites protect our privacy.

However, we all know that isn’t the case. Unfortunately, innocently or not, we often put too much information about ourselves online.

For more information about your privacy, personal data, and scammers, follow the Easy Prey podcast and visit EasyPrey.com.

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