Digital Footprint Checker: What Is It & How Does It Work?
Michelle Wilson - July 16, 2022
Your digital footprint is any record of online activity. This footprint will show anywhere you’ve been online and any data you’ve left behind. The footprint will grow as you deliberately share details online, whether through websites or applications, tracking your activity without permission or consent. Unfortunately, if your data falls into the wrong hands, your chance of identity theft increases exponentially.
Table of Contents
What is a Digital Footprint?
A digital footprint checker will verify any records of your online activity. It shows where you’ve been, traces you’ve left behind, and any data you’ve willingly shared. For example, pretend you’re walking on the beach; each step you take leaves an impression. When these actions are repeated daily, the footprints increase significantly. Eventually, the prints don’t just show where you’ve been; they’ll also indicate where you’re heading.
Any time a user signs up, logs in, hits send, or adds information to a platform, they leave an impression behind. Unfortunately, this footprint isn’t simply washed away each night with the tide. That’s why making informed decisions about the information you share is crucial.
How Does Data Arrive in the Digital Footprint?
The digital footprint will grow in many ways. The information can be deliberately shared by posting details on social media, newsletter signup, or online reviews. In other instances, this tracking isn’t always noticeable.
Websites can track online activity by installing cookies on the device, while apps can collect data without consent. Users can allow organizations access to the information, which can then be shared or sold with outside parties. Unfortunately, your info could also be compromised as a part of a data breach.
What is a Digital Footprint Checker?
A digital footprint checker is an automated program that scans an individual’s online activity. This digital footprint checker helps keep users safe online, monitoring all activity for cookies, data, and ongoing information breaches. When a user is aware of the online information, they can work to remove details or monitor for identity theft. As many digital footprint checkers also include a dark web scan, it protects the data from further compromise or malicious intent.
Examples of Different Data in the Digital Footprint
While it may sound hard to believe, it’s not uncommon for an individual to have thousands of items appear in a digital footprint. How is it possible to have so many pieces available?
Let’s take a closer look at the actions an individual can take to increase the size of a digital footprint. To help break it down, let’s examine the different areas a digital footprint checker would evaluate online: financial, shopping, health and fitness, social, and reading and news.
Financial data is always concerning to discover with a digital footprint checker. Most financial institutions will safeguard this information, but your digital footprint will occasionally contain various financial details. These details include opening new credit card accounts, various mobile banking applications, purchasing or selling stocks, or subscribing to financial publications or blogs.
Shopping data will include anything transactional online that you perform online. These include registering for newsletters, signing up for coupons or creating new accounts online, downloading or using various shopping applications, and making purchases online.
Health and Fitness Data
Health and fitness data isn’t always super sensitive information, but they still include various aspects of your life that you may not be aware of. This consists of any registration with an email address with a gym or fitness center, subscribing to different health and fitness blogs, receiving any health care, or using various applications to track workouts or activities.
Your social data online will include any social media presence or forum interactions. They also have website logins (complete with all credentials), connecting with friends online, joining various dating applications or websites, or sharing any data, information, and photos with mutual connections.
Reading and News Data
The news information you read or interact with can establish a portion of your digital footprint, especially if these details are location specific. Signing up for a publication’s newsletter or registering for updates, and reposting articles or information is another significant way to increase the digital footprint. Subscribing to online news sources and viewing articles on mobile apps are other ways of expanding the digital footprint.
How to Protect Your Digital Footprint Online
Once you have a solid understanding of what increases or shifts the digital footprint, knowing how to control the information available is essential. Here are eight tips to help you protect your data online.
Limit the Data You Share
The easiest way to protect your digital footprint is by limiting your share data. Before completing an online form or personal information, evaluate if it’s worth the risk.
Avoid Unsafe Websites
Unless a website begins with HTTPS (where the “S” stands for “secure,” avoid the platform altogether. Never share confidential information through unsecured websites, especially if they require payment.
Don’t Enter Personal Information on Public Wi-Fi.
Public Wi-Fi access isn’t as secure as your home’s private networks. As such, refrain from transmitting sensitive data across the web, including contact information or financial details.
Always Delete Old Accounts
Many people create social media accounts that they no longer access, making them a potential host for data loss. Start with any social media or dating app profiles you no longer use when you’re reducing your digital footprint online. Any account removed will eliminate a small portion of the digital footprint.
Carefully Review Your Medical Records
Identity theft doesn’t just target financial accounts. Criminals also want your health information and medical records. A criminal will use personal information to get treatment in your name, intertwining their health information with yours. Always practice good data hygiene by reviewing your medical records frequently.
Don’t Log in with Facebook
Avoid linking your Facebook account with various third-party organizations. Using the social media network to sign into a website or application is convenient but not secure. Whenever possible, create a private account for the website.
Limit Any Sharing on Social Media
Social media builds and connects individuals more effortlessly than ever. Unfortunately, oversharing makes it even easier for malicious actors to score valuable pieces of your information. Always think twice before sharing your location, travel plans, new purchases, or personal details.
Invest in Identity Protection Service
At some point, personal data and information will likely end up in the wrong hands. Thankfully, you aren’t alone in trying to remedy the situation. Always protect yourself using an identity protection service, mainly if they offer complete remediation services.
Your digital footprint collects small pieces of personal information every time you log into an app or website online. This data develops a profile of intel that can be used for malicious reasons, like identity theft. Safeguarding your data can lessen this probability, particularly with sensitive details.