Securing Your Digital Footprint: 7 Best Practices for Australians

The concept of a “digital footprint” might ring a bell, yet its full implications and the methods to enhance your digital privacy and security may still be somewhat elusive. As we navigate a world where digital interactions are becoming the norm, we all need to know how to protect our digital footprint. This is primarily about Australians, but it applies to all of us.

What is a Digital Footprint?

Your digital footprint is the data trail behind when you engage with technology. Consider it like virtual footprints across the internet, whether that’s posts you make on social media, sending emails, or making purchases online. We can categorize digital footprints into two distinct kinds:

  • Active Digital Footprints: These are traces you intentionally create when engaging online. For instance, when you sign up for a newsletter or create an account on a website, you’re actively contributing to your digital footprint.
  • Passive Digital Footprints: These traces are collected without your direct knowledge. Often this happens behind the scenes through various technologies and services you use.

Digital Footprint Safety Tips

#1 Search for Yourself

Searching for your name online might feel self-centered, but it’s an effective strategy for auditing your public digital footprint. Diversify your efforts across various search engines and don’t limit your investigation to just the first page of results.

Expect the unexpected – the internet is vast, and the discoveries about the information connected to your name can be startling. Should you stumble upon personal details that shouldn’t be public domain, or errors and misrepresentations, take prompt action. Reach out to the website’s administrator and ask for the content to be taken down.

#2 Use a VPN

VPN redirects your traffic through third-party servers. Although you still leave traces on the Internet, they cannot be linked to you. You can also go further and find out what is double VPN. This is an advanced technology found in flagship VPNs such as VeePN, which provides double encryption and double traffic redirection. This option means greater security and virtually no digital footprints leading back to you. The exception is services where you log in.

#3 Optimize Your Privacy Settings

Many digital service platforms, including social media, e-commerce sites, email clients, search engines, web browsers, and online conferencing platforms, provide options for users to customize their privacy settings. Tightening these settings can effectively shrink your online visibility. The National Cybersecurity Alliance even offers direct links to update privacy settings on numerous well-known websites.

Nevertheless, it’s important to recognize that enhancing your online security might sometimes conflict with ease of use or bring unintended consequences. For instance, clearing your search history could add extra steps to your future search activities. Similarly, blocking pop-up ads might mean missing out on certain advertisements or promotions that might have been of interest to you. While the boost in privacy typically outweighs these minor inconveniences, it’s critical to be fully informed about the potential effects before you modify any settings.

#4 Protect Your Passwords

It’s imperative to keep your passwords confidential and avoid sharing them with others, regardless of whether they’re for professional or personal use. Managing multiple passwords can be challenging, but instead of sharing, consider documenting them in a secure notebook or planner that you can store in a location only you can access. Also, do not forget to use a VPN, even as an extension for Mozilla (check here), especially when entering passwords on websites. Alternatively, for enhanced security and convenience, opt for a digital solution by using a reputable online password manager.

Securing Your Digital Footprint: 7 Best Practices for Australians

#5 Limit Your Online Accounts

Managing multiple online accounts contributes to a larger digital footprint. Minimizing your footprint can be straightforward by deactivating or eliminating unused accounts. Consider whether maintaining multiple email accounts is essential or if it’s time to let go of that account made with an online retailer you haven’t revisited in three years.

Exercise caution when considering new accounts. Opt for a guest checkout with retail sites when available, especially if you’re unlikely to make regular purchases. Only create new accounts when necessary for frequent use.

#6 Create a Google Alert

Set up a Google Alert to monitor instances of your name on the web. This move may broaden your Google presence, yet the benefits typically outweigh the drawbacks. It enables you to track and manage the websites contributing to your online presence, and if necessary, remove unwanted content.

#7 Restrict Mobile App Permissions

Before you allow a mobile application to access your personal data like photos, geographical location, camera, contacts, and other sensitive information, remember that you are essentially providing the app developers access to these details. Exercise caution and consider the implications before you give apps carte blanche to access various data sets they ask for. It’s worth noting that numerous apps function perfectly fine even without the need for every permission they initially request.

Conclusion

The digital trails we leave on the internet, much unlike transient footprints on a sandy shore, are enduring. It is imperative to consciously curtail the volume of personal data accessible in cyberspace. This necessitates prudent modifications to one’s online browsing behaviors coupled with employing robust measures engineered to bolster security. But now you know about key measures that can either leave no traces on the Internet or mitigate their consequences if detected.

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