We live in the age of data and yet it feels as though every few months, our data-fueled world is falling apart. Elections are being swayed, personal information hacked, interests manipulated, and privacy disrespected. If any of these things bother you, then it’s up to you to take a stance and make some decisions about your own digital footprint.
To get you started, here are a few tips:
Use a Password Manager
Consistently cited as one of the most important things you can do to reduce your online risk exposure, password managers also come with the added benefit of not having to remember the ridiculous combinations of numbers, letters, and that weird thing from your childhood that you happen to use for one of your literally hundreds of passwords. Reusing passwords is a sure-fire way to get yourself pwned, but with services like Lastpass, 1Password, or Bitwarden, you only have to ever remember one master password; just be sure it’s damned good.
Know Your Apps
At least two or three times per year, I find myself doing a bit of ‘digital spring cleaning’. This typically entails going through all apps on my phone and asking the question, “how often do I actually use this?” (note: Android even provides you with the exact date you last used all of your apps). However, even for apps that I use regularly, I look at the company who makes that apps and ask myself what kind of digital citizen they’ve been in the world. It was questions like this that got me off Facebook and eventually had me switch from Whatsapp to Signal. The digital ecosystem is big enough now that for just about any app that you want to get rid of, there’s going to be a good replacement.
And for those evil behemoths that you simply can’t part with (why can’t I quit you, Google?) you can choose to take the time and lock things down. Though they’re typically hidden away in the dark corners of their support pages, nearly all digital services have a whole host of settings you can use to reduce their ability to track, monitor, and engage with you. Google’s MyAccount lets you view, limit, and delete huge aspects of your digital footprint and even Facebook settings can be tuned to dial Zuckerberg back… albeit only a little.
However, most importantly, you should begin to approach the online world with a bit more skepticism and start asking the question, “who stands to benefit from this?”
Sadly, long-gone are the days of an open, free, and curious internet.
Your data is now big business and though sometimes it’s easy to feel helpless… you’re still the one in charge of it.