In the past year, the world has had to take on a more digital profile than ever before. People wishing to maintain contact with others, either for personal or business reasons, have had to activate new accounts, learn new software, and increase their presence online in extraordinary ways. One of the consequences of this new world is that we are leaving pieces of our digital identities behind during each transaction. Maintaining control of your digital footprint is important for the safety of your information and your reputation. Here are 7 ways to clean your digital footprint to protect your information in 2021.
Try typing your name into a couple of search engines such as Google, YouTube, Amazon, Facebook, and Bing. Click on anything that pops up to give you an idea of what photos or information are floating around on the internet. Start making a list of websites where your information is found.
If you’ve been on the internet for a year or more, it is almost certain that you will have created several accounts that you may no longer use. Add to the list of websites found in your search by including the websites you get junk mail from, the apps you signed up for on your phone, the websites you no longer frequent, any old work accounts, ones for gaming, shopping, or socializing.
Either delete or deactivate the accounts or change the information to an innocuous photo and a false email or contact info if you can’t delete it. The same goes for apps on your phone, if you don’t use them, delete them. Every time they update your system, you are leaving more data to be tracked by unknown parties. ‘Ghost’ accounts can be pretty harmless, but this protects you from violation if the company is ever hacked. It is worthwhile to uncover how to de-activate them to keep your footprint uncluttered.
If you haven’t changed your passwords in a long time or re-use them regularly, it’s time to change that. Choose passwords that contain words with upper- and lower-case letters, symbols, and numbers. One of the simplest ways a hack can ruin a life is if every account has the same password—it allows criminals to use different accounts to “verify” your information to gain access to things like bank accounts and confidential documents. Avoid common words, the names of your family or pets, or numbers like birthdates or anniversaries.
Within the websites you use, check your privacy settings and make sure that they are showing and hiding what you want. Businesses will want to ensure their data is “public” but if you want to keep your personal and private lives separate, you will need to ensure that you utilize different accounts and do not link them.
If you do not already have one, it’s time to create a secondary email account to use for discounts, flyers, and coupons. Many stores are very pushy and won’t sign you up without an email, so having a second one with minimal personal information attached will prevent them from mining that data to use for advertising. At least once every few months, go into that account and spend an hour unsubscribing. You can always be added again later if you go back into the store.
If you have used e-bay, amazon, PayPal, or other retail accounts, it’s time to review the data they have on you. If you no longer use them, then delete them. These accounts are often targeted for hacking and there is no need to keep important or sensitive information inside of those company databases.
Many viruses are created to extract your personal information and are forever being upgraded and updated. Use antivirus or anti-malware software (many of these are free or very inexpensive) to protect your digital information from hackers.
Your digital footprint is being tracked and observed daily to sell you products, find out more about your habits, and log the choices you make online. Posts you make to social media sites are one of the most active forms of digital footprint that companies are exploring in the new world of advertising. In addition to this, future employers or schools, potential customers, creditors, blossoming business partners, and your competitors can use this information to judge or harm you without you even knowing it has happened.
Curate the image you wish to project on the internet by posting with intention whenever you are online. Un-tag yourself in unprofessional photos, skip the negative posts and build a culture of positivity through showcasing your best side. Your social media footprint isn’t merely of interest to hackers or identity thieves—it’s the newest form of background check that goes deeper than you can imagine. Managing your digital identity matters.
Since social media is so interconnected, getting your footprint under control can be a daunting task. You may eliminate a photo from one site, while it still lives on many other pages. This is where the professionals can help. At Van Patter Group we can help you create a spring-cleaning plan for your social media that will ensure that people who search your name find the best images and information about you! We are offering a free one-hour consultation right now! Contact our team today to book a time to start this important task to protect your digital identity!