Your digital footprint is all the information about you that exists on the internet as a result of your online activity. This includes your search history, your photos and videos (Including the deleted ones like those pesky photos you told your drunk friends not to tag you in, but they did anyway), as well as every single time you like/love something on a social media site. Even your text messages leave a digital footprint.
And while you won’t be able to erase everything, you can better control and manage the size of your digital footprint by making a dent in the number of shady companies that post your information without your consent. By following the instructions below, you can keep your personal information out of the hands of data brokers who buy and sell your personal data to those pesky “people search” services like Spokeo and Radaris, as well as background check platforms like Infotracer and MyLife.
Delete old/defunct online accounts.
This includes old email addresses, social media accounts, apps, and anything that you no longer use regularly. If you are interested in keeping an old account, say that Facebook account that you really only use every blue moon to message your dear Aunt Bertha, then set it to private in your security settings. That way, it won’t show up in internet searches.
Remove yourself from data broker sites.
Now this may be hit or miss, but usually a simple email to the webmaster (usually found through the “Contact Us” page) will work, but it may take some follow up on your part to make sure the information is removed. There are also online guides available to walk you through the opt-out process which can be needlessly complicated. A list of them can be found here.
You can also use a service like DeleteMe that makes removing yourself from the internet less of a headache. (Not a plug, never used it myself but…I might in the future). Just know that such services can come with a hefty price tag.
Monitor your internet presence.
It is not vain to search yourself on Google, Yahoo, Bing, and other search engines. In fact, it’s the smart thing to do. And don’t stop at the first page, either. Do a deep dive. Ignorance is not bliss in this case, and being aware of what’s out there can literally save you from the menacing plots of identity thieves and fraudsters.
Regularly check your credit reports, banking, and credit card accounts.
The quicker you catch discrepancies, the faster you can correct them. So, make it a point to check your banking statements weekly, your credit card statements monthly, and your full credit report at least once a year.
Know Your Rights.
Though internet law and privacy is still relatively new and somewhat undeveloped, you as a consumer still have rights. For example, in certain states like California, victims of crimes like domestic violence and sexual assault can have their data removed from online databases with a single request.
When it comes to most things, including online privacy, know that it is better to be proactive than reactive. There is only one you in this world. Let’s keep it that way!