What Is A Digital Footprint?
We’ve all been to the beach and taken a stroll on the sand. The footprints we leave behind indicate our path. Similarly, a digital footprint reveals where you have been on the internet. Protecting privacy on the internet means covering the digital footprint.
There are simple yet effective ways to hide your online activities. Keep on reading.
What Is A Digital Footprint?
A digital footprint simply means the trail of activities you leave behind when using the internet. You hop on the internet, check social media, like a few comments, jump on Amazon to view or buy some products, then catch up on the news on another website.
All this activity leaves behind a digital footprint that can be tracked by entities that control your data.
Over time, as you continue to use the internet, the trail gets bigger. Your internet activities provide a window into your likes and dislikes, which can be used for targeted advertisement.
Cookies vs. Cross-site Tracking
The cookie is retrieved when you revisit the website, and it automatically defaults back to your preferences. Ever found items in your cart intact after accidentally closing the window? That’s a cookie at work. It provides persistence to the user experience.
And as much as cookies have helped the user experience, they continue to be used by advertisers for tracking users.
Cookies were only the beginning; advertisers today use various methods to track the footprint of users on the internet. Cross-site tracking includes invisible images called pixels and third-party cookies.
Pixels are embedded inside web pages and deliver information about an event to the advertiser. For example, an email from an advertiser will contain the said pixel, which will load up when you open the email. The time, location, and information about how many times you have opened it will be sent to the advertiser.
Why Does A Digital Footprint Reveal?
Like your footprints on the sand, your digital footprint can reveal where you have been on the internet. Advertisers take this data to understand your behavior and interests. If they can learn what interests you, they can serve you targeted ads to maximize the chances of drawing your interest.
Here are some of the things are that part of your digital footprint:
- The IP address and your location in the world.
- What websites you have visited. Tracking cookies from the same advertiser can see the browsing history.
- How long you have been using a particular website.
- Search engine history.
- Social media profiles.
- The ads that you click on.
- Location history is collected through your mobile phone.
The Dangers of Public Wi-Fi
Public Wi-Fi is commonplace now. Whether you are chilling at a coffee shop or waiting for your flight at an airport, Wi-Fi is a complimentary offering to expect. But it’s not without risk.
Some public Wi-Fi access points are not password-protected. And while it is convenient to connect and start surfing, it also invites hackers. Setting up Wi-Fi as open means that there is no encryption being used to secure the exchange between the client and the access point. It poses a huge risk to the security of your data, especially while sharing sensitive information online.
A hacker on the same network intercepts the internet traffic and even manipulates it. So instead of showing you the real Facebook website, it can redirect you to a fake website that resembles Facebook.
How Does A VPN Hide Digital Footprint?
VPN is a tool that hides IP addresses and encrypts the internet traffic to prevent interference. iProVPN uses the AES 256-bit encryption standard. When the data leaves your device, it is protected by a layer of strong encryption that prevents any outsider like a hacker from intercepting the internet traffic.
However, a VPN does not completely hide your digital footprint. Advertisers use various methods that are not within the scope of a VPN.
Other Forms Of Digital Footprint
It’s not just the websites or devices you use but also the information you share online that account as your digital footprint. Your social media profiles are rife with personal information such as date of birth, place of birth, current city, friends and family, and certain activities.
Malicious actors use information about you that’s available online for phishing attacks. The less you share online, the less information there is that can be used against you.
Every Facebook like that you do or every check-in that you make public on Facebook and Instagram delivers insight when it comes to phishing attacks. In more severe cases, the information can also be used for identity theft.
Privacy is like sand that’s slipping away from your hand. Fortunately, tools like a VPN and certain practices like blocking third-party trackers, deleting third-party cookies, and sharing little information online can help reduce your footprint on the internet.
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