Have you heard of the term Digital Footprint? Anything you share or post on the web becomes a part of your digital footprint. Not only this, but information posted about you on the web also contributes to the trail of data that is left behind in the digital environment. It is important to take precautionary steps to protect your personal identity online. There are many ways to ensure your privacy is not compromised while accessing Social Media through smartphones, tablets, personal or public computers.
Here are some tips to help you get started:
- Limit App Access: Be cautious of the level of access you give to mobile apps and social media sites. Your location and other personal information should not be accessible to every app or social media site you sign up for.
- Frequent Audits: Limiting the app access is good, but it may fail you at times. There have been numerous instances when a new release of the most-loved Facebook mobile app will reset your privacy settings back to default. As a user of the “free” app, you can’t do much about it, but a regular audit of your privacy settings can help. Also, it’s a good idea to remove the apps that you don’t need or use often.
- Diversify your Email Accounts: Is your email account constantly overflowing with spam? In this case prevention is better than the cure. One way to avoid spam is to use multiple email addresses. By using a separate account to register for social media sites and to receive marketing emails from companies (i.e. newsletters, promotions and online deals), you can avoid giving away your work or personal email to illegitimate websites. Alternatively, if you use a Gmail account, Google just introduced Gmail tabs to segregate your emails. This can help to a certain extent.
- Monitor: Set up alerts on unusual activities whenever available. There are services like Google Alert that can report an instance of a keyword that you are monitoring. I recommend that you set up an alert for your name and your organization’s name. This step can go a long way to protect your online identity.
- Be Cautious on Public Computers: Try to minimize the use of social networks, online banking and transactions when using a public computer. If you are in an situation and absolutely must use it, remember to clear the browser’s cookies and cache. If you’re not familiar with how to do that, search the help option or change your password as soon as you can on your personal computer.
- Protect your Password: Use password protection on your smartphone or tablet. This is especially helpful if you do banking or store other confidential data on your mobile device. As for other websites, set up complex passwords and change them frequently.
- Avoid Checking the “Remember Password” Option: Did you know that every time you check the “remember password” option when signing in, you allow the browsers to store your username and password information via cookies? This can be convenient if you login often, however, this also makes way for viruses or malware to decrypt and misuse this information. If you use the same password on multiple sites, this multiplies the risk.
- Track your Cookie Options: The sad part is the “remember password” option is just one way for websites to drop cookies in to your computer. The websites can drop scripts and cookies without your knowledge. The preventive measure is to enable the track your browser’s cookies options. This can be annoying as the system will ask for your permission each time a website tries to drop a cookie. Remember, you always have the option to say NO.
- Read the Fine Print: Read the data collection and 3rd parties’ section within the privacy policies of the Social Media sites you visit or merchants you trade online with. While signing up for a social network, always review who owns the data and if the network were to shut down, is there an option to export your data.
- Stay in the Loop: Keep up to date with privacy concerns raised against various websites. Check out Epic for a list of all the potential issues with the various websites.
A lot of these tips are actually common sense, but sometimes we need a reminder. Use your discretion and be cautious when signing up for mobile apps or sharing confidential information online. Protect your personal identity by vigilantly monitoring your digital footprint.
Note: You may be interested in a previous post, Does Free Always Mean Free?, which explores how users share information in exchange for free apps or access to social networking sites.
Ashish Malik is Partner, Client Services at 108 ideaspace inc., a firm that works in Web/Social Media/Marketing Automation strategy and implementation. A Certified Consultant, Ashish has helped several clients automate their sales and marketing as well as grow their business by implementing CRM. For more on Ashish Malik or 108 ideaspace, visit ideas108.wpengine.com.