Are you safe ?


I n 2010, Google CEO Eric Schmidt, in an interview with the Wall Street Journal, predicted that “every young person one day will be entitled automatically to change his or her name on reaching adulthood in order to disown youthful hijinks stored on their friends’ social media sites”.
Indeed, if we take time to research ourselves on the internet, most of us will be surprised by how much personal information we’ve posted
 online. Our Facebook posts disclose who our friends are, what we ‘Like’, our relationship status; our tweets broadcast our opinions; the photos we are tagged in reveal what we’ve done, who we’ve done it with; our Instagram and Flickr photos provide an insight into the type of people we are; our Foursquare account divulges our favourite locations and hangouts, where we went on holidays; our LinkedIn profiles display our professional history.
All this data-dubbed as our digital
footprint-could be taken out of context; be investigated by potential employers; mined by marketing firms; could cause problems at the time of prospective marriage alliances, or during college admissions, or even be used by cyber criminals for identity theft.
But all is not lost yet; and while it might seem like an extremely time-consuming chore, it makes sense for you to …
1) Manage your digital footprint
First, make a list of all social
networking sites, online services, and smartphone apps where you have an account. Google your full name (within quotes) and your e-mail address to find accounts you might have forgotten about.
Systematically, start closing the accounts and unsubscribing yourself from the services that you do not use any more. Try websites like  AccountKiller.com, De leteYourAccount.com and JustDelete.me for quick links and how-tos.
When it comes to your social
networks, make sure your posts and photos are not freely available to the public.
In Facebook, click on the ‘lock’ icon in the top right corner of the blue bar and change the settings to private, or share them only with close friends. Importantly, also disable the setting that lets search engines link to your timeline.
In Twitter, under Settings > Security and Privacy, choose the option Do not allow anyone to tag me in photos. Check the Protect my Tweets box so only people you
 approve can see them. Similarly, uncheck the Add a location to my Tweets box. Also, click the Delete all location information button to erase geo-tags from past tweets. Additionally, uncheck the Discoverability box that lets people find you by your e-mail address.
Delete tweets, updates, blog posts, photos that could be misunderstood or taken out of context… Monitor comments made by others in your networks. More importantly, be careful about whom you befriend.
After you sanitize your digital footprint, exercise full caution when making new blog posts, tweets, and picture posts. Request friends not to tag you in the photos that they post online.
2) Stop websites from tracking you
It’s true, they’re watching you. Every time you surf the web — even in the privacy of your home — your actions are constantly being tracked. For instance, if you have signed-in to your Google or Microsoft account, your searches are monitored by Google Search
and Bing to serve you tailor-made results. If you are ‘window shopping’ online, the websites you visit leave cookies on your PC, which are used to serve you advertisements throughout your browsing session. Similarly, Facebook recently announced that it would be tracking user’s browsing habits.
To avoid being tracked:
Sign out of all your accounts before browsing websites, or using search engines. Uninstall search tool bars that you might have
installed. Check the extensions that your browser is running (refer to the browser Help section to know more about extensions), and disable the ones that you don’t recognize.
Try the  DuckDuckGo.com search engine that doesn’t track your activity.
Most browsers — Chrome, Firefox, Internet Explorer, Opera and Safari — have a ‘do not track’ option (found under Settings) that requests websites not to track your online activities. But as it stands,
this request might either be honoured, or completely ignored. Still, it makes sense to always use this option when surfing the web.
Install the DoNotTrackMe browser addon ( www.abine.com) that’s available for Chrome, Firefox, Internet Explorer, Opera and Safari — and even as an app for Android and iOS. This software blocks ad networks, social networks, and data-collection companies from tracking your browsing. It also protects your email address, phone, and credit card from being
abused by companies on the web and on your mobile device.
Install and run CCleaner ( www.piriform. com) to clear temporary files, cookies, browsing, download and form history to protect your privacy, and make your computer faster and secure.
Importantly, be careful when installing free software you might have downloaded from the internet. Most of these include ‘adware’, which are third-party tracking tools, that can be quite hard to uninstall unless you know
what you’re looking for.
3) Useful browser extensions
Disconnect: Blocks trackers from popular sites (Chrome, Firefox, Opera, Safari) HTTPS
Everywhere: Redirects to secure (HTTPS) versions of sites where possible (Chrome, Firefox)
Adblock Plus: Blocks intrusive ads (Chrome, Firefox, Opera, Safari)
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