Whether you realize it or not, you’re leaving a digital trail everywhere you go. From social media to search engines and everywhere in between, you’re creating a unique footprint that companies can use to track who you are and where you go. If you find that a bit disconcerting, you’ll need to do something to minimize your footprint and reclaim a bit of privacy.

The Top Ways to Minimize Your Digital Footprint

A couple years ago, Facebook came under scrutiny for how it was collecting and using the personal information of its users. It was this event that made people aware of just how much of their private information and details were floating around in cyber space.

Millions of users downloaded their data and discovered that Facebook knew way more about them than they should. And if Facebook had all of this information – people thought to themselves – how much do other companies know?

The answer to this question would shock most people. The average internet user with social media profiles, email, and various online accounts has an alarmingly big footprint. But don’t be dismayed. While it’ll take some time and effort, there are ways for you to take back some of your information, minimize your footprint, and prevent companies and individuals from mining future insights about you. Here are some best practices:

  • Read Terms and Conditions

Any time you sign up for an online account, you should be presented with some terms and conditions of service. But for the most part, you probably don’t read a single word. If you’re serious about managing your digital footprint, this has to change.

“Always check the terms of service when you are starting to use a new site, and read these documents when they are provided as updates, too,” PrivacyParent advises. “You may not realize how many of your rights are being taken away from you quietly while you are doing something as simple as web browsing. On social media, set your accounts to private or ‘friends-only.’ Don’t allow friends to ‘tag’ you in the photos they post.”

  • Deactivate Old Accounts

Whenever you sign up for an account – whether on a social media platform or an ecommerce website – keep a record of it. Then, on occasion, review the list of accounts and make a note of any that you no longer use. These accounts should be deactivated as soon as possible. There’s no value in leaving the account open and giving companies or data brokers access to your personal information.

  • Use Burner Information

In many cases, there’s no need to use your real information to sign up for an account. Use “burner” information – such as a fake name and throwaway email address. This will give you access without creating a trail of data that can be linked back to you.

  • Try the Nuclear Option

When it comes to limiting the information that search engines, data firms, and online companies collect from you in the future, you can get as serious and secretive as you want. A virtual private network, or VPN, is ideal for adding a layer of insulation and anonymity between your identity and online activities. But there’s also the so-called “nuclear option,” which takes privacy to an entirely new level.

“You may have heard of Tor, the multi-layered proxy client that’s a go-to for anyone looking to access the fabled Deep Web. By routing your IP address through multiple proxies, Tor protects users from anyone anywhere ever knowing who they are or what they’re looking at,” TeachThought explains.

People using Tor typically have something to hide, but this doesn’t have to be the case. As people becoming increasingly aware of how much of their information is available online, it’s likely that more users will gravitate towards programs like Tor to distance themselves from their footprints. And who could blame them?

Regain Control Over Your Life

As someone who uses search engines to browse the internet, social media platforms to interact with people, and various online accounts to store and access information, you’re going to sacrifice some of your privacy and confidentiality. But there’s a foolish way to handle your digital footprint, and a smart way to manage your digital behaviors. Ideally, you’ll take practical steps toward limiting your exposure and unnecessarily releasing information that could be used against you.