Carnegie Mellon University

Reduce Your Digital Footprint

Last Updated: 01/25/2021

Every account created, email sent, image posted, or location tagged adds to a persons digital footprint. That information is combined to portray a digital image of someone's interests, hobbies, actions, beliefs, and routines. This information can be used by marketing companies to send targeted advertisements, but even worse it can be used by cybercriminals to commit identity theft. 

Learn how you can keep your personal information protected by reducing your digital footprint!

  1. Delete or Deactivate Old Shopping & Social Media Accounts
    Though not in use, old shopping and social media accounts still contain your financial and personal information. Instead of risking a potential breach in one of those accounts, gain peace of mind by deleting or deactiving those accounts. For any account, app, or website that you no longer use or visit you should go to the account settings and look for an option to deactivate or close your account. 
  2. Deactivate Old Email Accounts
    As email has evolved over the years most accounts become abandoned and sit idle. Emails house personal details about our lives, as well as sensitive information in old messages. When not in use, it can become difficult to notice if the email account has been breached. Instead of allowing them to pose a risk, delete them altogether.
  3. Check Your Privacy Settings
    Privacy and security settings change often. This is especially true on social networking sites such as Facebook and Instagram. Be sure that you are not sharing your private information with strangers. Periodically review your privacy settings and set them to your preference. Learn how to review your social networking privacy settings here: Social Media Privacy.
  4. Disable Location Tracking
    Location tracking allows you to get location-based suggestions on your searches for businesses in your area. Though convenient, it can pose a security risk if you allow your location to be tracked all of the time. Be sure you are aware of which apps and services have access to your location and that the location is only being tracked while using the service.
  5. Think Before Posting
    With dozens of social networking platforms available it is easy to share your thoughts, comments, and pictures with just about everyone. Be sure you are not overhsaring your personal details on a social networking site. You should not post anything that you would not want your employer or your parents to see. Once something is posted on the Internet, it can be near impossible to have it removed. 
  6. Unsubscribe from Mailing Lists
    Sometimes while browsing or shoppng online we may sign up to be on a mailing list. Perhaps it is to receive the latest discounts and coupons. Over time those mailing lists add up and soon you are subscribed to hundreds of mailing lists. Most people don't read all of the newsletters and advertisements that clutter their inboxes. To reduce your digital footprint and the number of third parties with access to your information, start unsubscribing from the extra lists you don’t really need.
  7. Use a Virtual Private Network

    A Virtual Private Network (VPN) encrypts all data that you send and receive over the Internet. The VPN also masks your true IP address and makes it impossible for anyone to find your physical location. This can be helpful when using unsecure public Wi-Fi networks at local businesses. Additonally the VPN reduces the risk of websites tracking your actions and collecting your data. The VPN adds an extra layer of security that protects you and your privacy. Get started using the CMU VPN today!