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Digital footprint on the Internet: What it is and why you should take care of it

When the Internet is used, there is a trace of the pages and the activities carried out there; this is known as a fingerprint. It should be noted that leaving your digital footprint can sometimes be dangerous because there are hackers who expect oversight to enter and obtain necessary information. If you still don’t know how it works, we invite you to stay and learn to leave no trace, and if you let it be sure that nothing will happen.

What is the fingerprint?

When we talk about the digital footprint on the Internet, we refer to all the records and traces we leave when using the Internet. In most cases, this fingerprint is suitable for users, but in other cases, it can be harmful because they are never irrelevant. These records represent information about us, from which third parties may use this information to earn money or understand our preferences so that they can better sell their products.

The digital footprint is one of the issues that most concerns users since it directly affects their security and Privacy. Understand why fingerprints are so essential and how they affect you positively and negatively.

For this, we would like to leave you an ideal explanatory video for the little ones in the house! How do I leave a trace with my fingerprint?

When you enter any web page, you agree to deliver the information necessary to be there; that data you deliver can be your location, gender, age, and IP address, among others.

Cybersecurity professionals say that smartphones are the primary means we leave our digital footprint. You have to think that unlike before, when on the mobile, we only had photos, contacts, and some other files, today we have passwords, applications, and bank details, so theft of our smartphone would grant access to all that information. That said, it is vital to ask the following question, what options are there to reduce our digital footprint?

First, we must define what we understand by Privacy since, depending on our approach, we will defend it differently. In any case, there are some actions that we interpret how we interpret this concept; we must, such as never providing the credit card number, PIN, or passwords, as well as not providing our data to strangers.

What is the fingerprint for?

Mainly, they are for advertising-based companies to collect important data since they are used to carrying out studies of what users prefer. Consequently, they are in charge of following your digital activities, and with this, they can contact you, knowing that what they offer is adjusted to your needs.

Fingerprint Collection Types

Websites handle different ways to collect the necessary information, which is why they are in charge of digitally tracking your movements. The purpose of this is to be able to use your fingerprint and thus obtain your identity and, through that, send you the ads, which annoy many users so much. In this way, there are two types of fingerprint collection, which are:

  • Passive collection: This is a form of monitoring without the need to request authorization from the user, where your movements are recorded on a web page.
  • Active collections: These are those that encourage you to directly accept invasive requests that allow companies to follow your movements and thus capture your data within their website.

Relationship with our digital identity

If you have a footprint in the digital world, it is because you have an identity that allows you to see yourself, perhaps, as a personal brand. Therefore, both are intertwined because one allows (imprint) the other (identity) to be formed; thanks to this, your data is collected.

How do I get my fingerprint?

It’s straightforward; your traces remain on a website because even if you enter a page in seconds, part of your information will be recorded, such as your IP address, for example.

To obtain our fingerprint, there are two ways: free and paid. The free one consists of a laborious process of scanning the entire network in search of all the pages that have part of our data and formally requesting that they be removed from their databases (it is not enough to delete the profile or unsubscribe from the newsletters). The second way to obtain our fingerprint is to go to a paid service like Delete Me.

It should be said that it is not a service (the basic plan is about $10), but it allows us to unsubscribe from databases worldwide, even if they are specialized in US databases. Another great advantage of Delete Me is that it can delete data that appears about us on Google. Likewise, if you do not want to maintain the subscription, it is advisable to use the service intermittently since our data may reappear over time. Let’s not forget that Delete Me requests to eradicate our data periodically and sends reports on our actions.

What can be done with the footprint we leave on the Internet?

The traces left in the browser do not pose an imminent threat, but when you leave it, you can be exposed to:

Fingerprint Dangers

As we have mentioned before, among the dangers of leaving your digital footprint is the theft of the most compromising information, and we are not referring to your tastes in music but to personal data such as the address where you live, how much money you have in the bank, your password of mail, etc. Therefore, we leave you a list of the main dangers of the digital footprint.

  • Malicious code ( Spyware or Ransomware ). These dangers come from receiving fake emails or browsing web pages not verified by an SSL certificate. Among the main dangers of code are Spyware, which collects information from our computer to transfer it to third parties, and Ransomware, which is code that “locks” computer data to demand ransom money.
  • Phishing. A prevalent practice in companies consists of scamming those who open emails that pretend to come from banks or recognized companies so that we give our data.
  • Peripherals. These products connect to some electronic device and allow hackers to obtain and exploit our digital footprint. A very common practice is to insert malware into peripherals that cybercriminals “give away” in contests or raffles on the Internet. So be very careful with these practices on unrecognized pages or profiles.
  • Smart Devices. As with peripherals, intelligent devices such as voice assistants, routers, lamps, or alarms, among others, can put our security at risk since they are a means of access to our home network.

Fingerprint Benefits

Being able to stay connected and speed up some of your work on the web is one of the most excellent benefits since these traces are inevitable, although they can be mitigated or even covered up. Also, this fingerprint allows you to search and find information about yourself. To do this, you have to search for your name in Google between quotation marks (for example, “María José Fernandez”), and we will be able to see those web pages that contain our name.

Finally, another of the benefits of the digital footprint is the possibility of creating our digital identity on the Internet over time through photos and files in different media. It is important to emphasize that this must be controlled and always ensure that there is nothing we do not want.

How to avoid leaving a digital footprint in the browser?

Surely at this moment, you are wondering: How do I do if my footprint was left on the Internet? How to avoid this? And we have an answer to each of them.

Let’s be honest; it is a fallacy to think that not using the Internet will be the solution; it is impossible now not to use it, even if it is to communicate. Therefore, how you should continue in the virtual world, take into account the following:

private browsers

Some browsers allow private browsing without trackers (Brave). However, other popular browsers, such as Chrome, Safari, or Firefox, allow users to browse in incognito mode. This private browsing allows you to set up a private profile on specific standard points (these points are part of our fingerprint). The fingerprints will look similar to private and standard profiles used by many people.

Accessories

Plugins, also known as extensions, are responsible for blocking advertising and intrusive ads and preventing the use of trackers. These add-ons must be installed in the browser we use and are usually free (although some are paid). It is essential to download and install them in the official repositories such as the Google Play Store or the Apple Store and pay attention to the reviews and opinions of the rest of the users.

AdBlock Plus, Privacy Badger, Disconnect, and NoScript are some of the most used blockers. These security extensions are designed to block scripts and prevent Spyware or trackers that are not visible to the user.

Disable JavaScript and Flash

This practice is one of the most effective to protect against browser fingerprinting. Also, although it is feasible, it has complications since if you disable it, some websites may not work correctly or detect the extensions you have in your browser. On the other hand, if we disable Flash, it should only affect us when visiting ancient websites.

antimalware software

Whether or not you want the protection of your digital data, placing this type of software never hurts. In most cases, antimalware software allows you to block ads, harmful toolbars, or software that runs in the background. Likewise, this software is directly related to the browser’s digital footprint, ensuring that we obtain a clean and secure browser.

vpn

Finally, one of the ways to protect yourself from using your information is by hiding your IP address. One of the best methods is to use a Virtual Private Network (VPN) that acts as an intermediary, which means you do not have direct contact with the server.

Although a VPN is ideal for hiding the Real IP of our device, it is still insufficient to avoid fingerprints, so combining this method with one of the methods mentioned above is advisable.

Erase your fingerprint. Is it possible?

You might think No! It is impossible; the truth is that it can be done, but it is not as easy as one might think. In addition, we are sure that not many are the preferred options of users.

At the same time, although there is no sure guarantee that your entire digital footprint can be removed, it is possible that by following these steps, you can make yourself less visible on the web:

Cookies no thanks

This is like a file that collects all the information about you to have it available when you reaccess it. Thus, if we remove them, we will ensure that they cannot link us to these websites in any possible way. We can eliminate them from the browser options or through a specific tool such as CCleaner.

Find information about yourself.

You can search for your name on the web between quotes and see what kind of public information exists and where it is shared, to delete later the one you don’t want to appear. We can also repeat the same system with our other personal data such as email or telephone.

off mailing lists

The idea is to remove the subscriptions you want. Although many web pages provide this type of cancellation, you can do it through an application such as Unroll. Me, an excellent alternative that facilitates the process (it is only available in the US and EEA).

Delete forum comments

You may have left information that is not necessary in a forum but don’t worry; as with all other cases, there is a solution. To remove comments from forums, you can access each of them individually and remove your comments or request removal from the moderator. If you do not remember all the forums in which you have participated, you can search Google for your nickname in quotes or search for part of the content of a specific comment.

Finally, if you want to delve deeper into the subject, you can look at an awareness platform for children and adolescents to use the Internet responsibly.

 

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