Five ways to reduce your digital footprint and become less visible online

Mar 6, 2024 | News

Here are five steps that you can take to reduce your online visibility as California’s pioneering “delete” act progresses.

Here are five steps that you can take to reduce your online visibility as California’s pioneering “delete” act progresses.

California’s Delete Act is a state legislation that will allow people to control the amount of information they want online.

The bill, which was signed by the state governor Gavin Newson on October 20, 2023, will allow residents to request that their personal data be deleted by all data brokers within the state.

In the EU and UK there are also pioneering data protection laws, but we can always do more to take control of our data.

Five ways to reduce your digital footprint


1. Close old accounts
Myspace. EBay. Facebook. Once they were cool, even useful. The digital world is constantly changing, and users are forced to migrate or leave the platform altogether. This leaves valuable data behind. Log in to all your unused email addresses, sites, and platforms that you are still registered for, and then delete them. It might be worth re-evaluating the relationships you have with those that you still use. You or a Silicon Valley tech bro?


2. Jump into your junk
You can quickly identify the origins by rummaging through your inbox and junk folder. You may have received newsletters from old insurance companies, comparison websites, or shops that you purchased something from in the past. These newsletters are aimed at getting you to buy again. You may have even signed up by mistake. You should find a link to unsubscribe at the bottom of each newsletter. Click that button and you can expect the spam to soon disappear.

 

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3. Delete and disappear
Check that the apps you have left are not able to track you. Apple devices can be configured to disable this feature by going to’settings, privacy, and tracking’. Then, you need to turn off ‘allow apps request to track.’ Look at ‘location services to see which apps are literally tracking you via GPS. Go to the Android settings, then ‘locations,’ and ‘app location permissions’. This should reveal which apps are spying on you.


4. Get data brokers to delete your info
Data brokers sell the data left behind by web activity. These companies are in hundreds and many have your name, contact information, and other vitals. You can ask data brokers for your data if you are covered by the GDPR (Europe’s GDPR, which is still in UK law but is subject to review), or California’s Consumer Privacy Act. Databrokerwatch.org provides a list of the major brokers, as well as opt-out forms that will help you get your data deleted faster.

 


5. Improve your browser privacy
Even better is to prevent data brokers from tracking your movements in the first instance. The Onion Router, or TOR for short, is a free browser that makes it harder for snoopers and advertisers to track you online. The free software relays your web traffic and encrypts it, isolating every site you visit so that third-party trackers or ads can’t track you. Cookies are automatically deleted when you finish browsing. Your browsing history will also be deleted.

Image: Lianhao Qu

Li Zhang, main image


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