Nearly everything you do online leaves a trail of information behind. This record of your unique online activity is known as your digital footprint. If parts of your footprint become exposed, you may be at risk of identity theft and fraud. By following our tips, you can help protect your digital footprint and reduce its size.
Anyone who uses the internet leaves behind a digital footprint, or a record of the actions they’ve taken online.
Trouble is, if that information falls into the wrong hands, it can lead to identity theft and fraud.
For example, a scammer could use information about things you’ve purchased or “liked” on social media to send you targeted phishing attacks that appear more legitimate or appeal to your specific interests.
Or, they may use information from your footprint — such as login credentials — to access your accounts directly.
It’s probably not possible to eliminate your digital footprint entirely, but there are ways to take back control of your data. Read on for tips to help you reduce and protect your digital footprint, so you can enjoy the internet with confidence.
How to reduce your digital footprint
Be careful what you share online
One of the best ways to reduce your digital footprint is to limit what you share online. There are three types of “sharing'' to consider:
Social sharing includes what you share on social media platforms like Instagram, Facebook, TikTok, and Twitter. Adding your phone number, location, or email to your social profile, or "liking" your preferred financial institutions, healthcare providers, pharmacies, etc., can give cybercriminals insight into who you are — and make it easier for them to target you.
Submissions include any online forms you might fill out. Every time you share your personal information with an organization, you expand your digital footprint — and increase the risk that your data could be misused or breached. So, think carefully before submitting an online form. If you’re prompted to fill out a form to unlock information or services, ask if there are other ways to get what you need.
Social logins may seem convenient, but are not always completely secure. For example, when you "Sign in with Google" or "Sign in with Facebook", the data you have on these sites may then be transferred to the third-party site. Always log in directly to the main account or website that you are visiting.
Delete accounts you don't need
Most people would be surprised at how many open accounts they have. When you add them all up — banking, services, newsletters, stores, etc. — the final tally is often far more than expected.
One effective way to reduce your digital footprint is to close old accounts that you no longer need.
The important thing is to not just delete or turn off these accounts but to fully close them. For example, deleting an email newsletter is not the same as unsubscribing from it or deleting your account. Similarly, turning off notifications from a shopping site isn’t the same as closing your account.
You can usually do this by going to the account’s settings page; look for privacy and security settings.
Use a Virtual Private Network (VPN), especially on public networks
Did you know that your IP address is recorded every time you visit a website?
While a hacker won’t know exactly who you are through your IP address alone, they can use it as a starting point to uncover more personal sensitive information about you.
For example, your IP address might reveal the country or city that you live in, bringing cybercriminals one step closer to tracking down your exact home address (which they can use to impersonate you and commit identity theft).
In addition, your IP address reveals a lot about your online activity — which could make it easier for hackers to target you with personalized phishing attempts or DoS (denial of service) attacks.
One way to combat this is by using a virtual private network (VPN) service, like the one we offer. A VPN hides your IP address from third parties, leaving little to no trace of your digital activity. Better yet, when you’re using public Wi-Fi, VPNs help hide your online traffic from identity thieves who may be connected to the same network.
With our VPN, available through our Pro+ Cyber plan, you can browse and stream privately and be protected against unsafe networks.
How to protect your digital footprint
If you have an Allstate Identity Protection plan that includes the Allstate Digital Footprint®, our proprietary tool can help you see and manage your personal data.
Here’s how it works: Allstate Digital Footprint scans your email inbox to show you a list of the companies that store your personal information, so you’ll know exactly where your information is living online.
From there, you can use our tool to directly contact those companies about your data. With the click of a button, you can tell brands that you’d like to:
Delete your data
Unsubscribe from marketing emails
Change your privacy preferences
This can help give you greater control over your digital footprint.
Now, whether you’re an Allstate Identity Protection member or not, consider these additional privacy tips:
Always keep your software up-to-date and turn on automatic updates
Never enter confidential information on an unsecured site
Know what to do if you receive a data breach notification