Want Your Data Private, Then Check Your Digital Foot Print

Check Your Digital Foot Print

Typing your own name into Google may prove an eye-opening experience.  Even if your personal information isn’t easily accessible, your computer may be sharing information about your habits, preferences and activities that you’d prefer to remain private.  Here’s how to keep a lid on what your computer shares about you with strangers.

digital footprint
by-VinothChandar

Social media sites like Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn have the right to change their privacy options at will and some exercise this right regularly (I’m talking to you, Facebook).  Even if you meticulously reviewed each setting when you activated your account, system updates can change default settings, or add new rules that effect posts.  The only way to make sure you aren't “over-sharing” is to regularly review your account’s privacy settings in detail.  Aim to do a thorough audit every six months.

More information about how to audit your Facebook privacy settings can be found here: http://www.callnerds.com/control-facebook/.

The main option for Twitter users to consider is if you want to leave your account public (so that any Twitter user can see your posts) or make it private by selecting “Protect my Tweets” via the account settings menu.  If you check the box, future Tweets will only be visible to people you approve to follow you.  While you’re here, click the box next to “Always use HTTPS” to connect securely whenever possible.

AdjustYourPrivacy (http://adjustyourprivacy.com/) is a free resource that provides a collection of links that allow you to update the privacy settings on each of your major accounts, from YouTube to Yahoo.  This saves you hunting through each site manually for their privacy settings page and offers a great way to ensure that you don’t forget any of the accounts you have floating out on the web.  Their tools also allow you to conduct a detailed search to find out what information about you is publicly available.  It even offers suggestions for ways to beef up your privacy and keep it under control.

Don’t forget that apps you install on Facebook have access to your personal information, regardless of if you are using them actively.  Many can post to your Twitter feed, access your LinkedIn data or connect to your email, and it’s difficult to limit an application’s permissions individually.  MyPermissions (http://mypermissions.org/) can automatically scan your apps permissions so that you can choose which ones to ditch and it will send you alerts when applications obtain access to your private information.

If you’d prefer to audit your Facebook apps manually, click on App Center (left of your Newsfeed), then choose My Apps (at the bottom).  Delete using the X button that appears when you hover your cursor over one, or modify how the application interacts with your Home Page by clicking on Settings under each one.

The last time you were surfing the web, did you notice that advertisements seemed eerily targeted toward you?  Your internet navigation is most likely being tracked.  DuckDuckGo (http://fixtracking.com/) offers a tracking-free search engine, or links to add-ons for your favorite browser that block third-party trackers.  It also provides detailed instructions on how to adjust your Internet Explorer options to prevent websites from accessing your location information.

Deleting old accounts where you've stored personal information is a great idea, but can be harder than you might think.  AccountKiller (www.accountkiller.com) provides links and instructions to make account termination easy for all major websites around the Internet.  Before opening a new account, check their “whitelist” and “blacklist.”  Those on the “blacklist” make deleting your profile very difficult should you ever want to do so in the future.  A few surprising sites to make the blacklist: Fox Sports, CNN, Starbucks and Whole Foods.  Who knew?

By:  Andrea Eldridge is CEO and co-founder of Nerds On Call, an on-site computer repair service for consumers and businesses. Andrea is the writer of two weekly columns, Computer Nerds On Call a nationally syndicated column for Scripps-Howard News Service, and Nerd Chick Adventures in The Record Searchlight.