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Minimise your digital footprint

Tech Tonic

You do not need a whistleblower to tell you that sites like Google and Facebook are storing your data and there is always the danger that such data may be harvested for profit. Have you not willingly given your consent whenever you have subscribed to an online magazine or bought things on the Net? How many times have you responded in the affirmative when asked, "continue with Facebook?" or "continue with Google?" All these operations take place with your data being stored, but there is a way to minimise your Web footprint.

If you travel anywhere, within the country or abroad, a corresponding map will show your route in dotted red lines on Google Maps. Sounds hip and happening, but it also means that Google has your location and you have agreed to share it. Every time you turn on your phone, your location has been tracked. You can see this data on https:// www.google.com/mapsimeline.

Go to https://myactivity. google. com/myactivity to check your activity online. Google has everything you have ever searched for. However, you have the option of managing your activity and you can delete any search from https://myaccount. google.com. While you are on your account, check your device activity and security as to where and when specific devices have accessed your account. Google knows all the apps you use. Check which apps or services you have given permission to access your account and remove the ones you no longer use or trust.

On Facebook, third-party apps do the most harm in sharing your information. If you have selected the option to log in with Facebook instead of creating a new account, the people behind the app will have access to a lot of information about you such as your gender, username, networks you belong to, full name, profile picture, friends' list and all other public information. Do a bit of housekeeping to control this. Go to the drop-down menu on the top right of Facebook and click on Settings. Select "Apps and websites" on the left. You will see all the apps you have given access to. Delete them if you no longer need them. You can now check if Cambridge Analytica used your Facebook data by going to www.facebook.com/help and searching for "cambridge". Click on "How can I tell if my information was shared with Cambridge Analytica?"

According to PEW research, on an average, a person spends over seven hours a day on the Internet. When you send an email or browse the Net or even message or buy products online, you leave traces. These are your digital footprints. You cannot erase them completely but you can minimise them. Search yourself on Google. You may come across some old accounts. If you cannot delete them, at least falsify the information in them and remove the images. This will remove them from your footprint when Google updates its information.

Unsubscribe from mailing lists. You can use the tool at https://unroll.me and give it permission to go through your mail and unsubscribe you from the hundreds of newsletters you have subscribed to. This will reduce the data available for profiling you. You can delete yourself from the websites you have visited by using Deseat.me. Go to https://deseat.me. Sign in with your Gmail address. Go through the list of sites you are signed up to and decide whether you want to "delete", "add to delete queue" or "keep".

Use disposable email addresses, like the box numbers we use for actual mail, from services such as Mailinator ( https://www.mailinator.com) or AirMail (https://en. getairmail.com). You can also have a secondary email address that you can use for registering on any site. Here, too, do not give your real data.

Use the Tor Internet browser, which offers a considerable degree of anonymity. You can also use the Incognito Mode in the Chrome browser, Private Window in Firefox and private browsing in Safari.

Despite your best efforts to clean your digital footprint, remember there are those pieces of shareable data that are created but are invisible to you called metadata. Keep yourself abreast through sites such as https://myshadow.org.

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