Digital Footprint Protection: How to Ensure Online Safety for Common Names

When you have a unique name, it doesn’t require much hunting around to find yourself online. In many cases, there may only be a few people with your exact name.

With a common name, such as Matthew Smith or Tracy Williams, for example, it can be difficult to determine just how much of your personal information is available online. You may scroll through pages of search engine results before finding your information.

If you have a common name, here are some of the best practices to help you protect your digital footprint and prevent identity theft!

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Set Up Google Alerts with Finetuned Parameters

Protecting your digital footprint requires that you be proactive rather than merely reactive.

One way to achieve this is to stay on top of any new mentions of your name as soon as they occur. By tracking them down, vetting them, and requesting them to be removed, you will be in lockstep with the people handling your data.

Set up Google Alerts to be notified whenever someone mentions your name online. Because you have a common name, you will most likely need to pair your name with other keywords—such as your location or employer.

Be Careful About How You Use Social Media

One of the biggest dangers of social media is that the content you share is often permanent. Even if you were to delete a post minutes after publishing it, there is every chance that it was already screenshotted by a stranger or saved by an archive website.

During Facebook’s notorious data breach in April 2021, the personal data of over 533 million users was leaked—including but not limited to full names, email addresses, phone numbers, and more.

Think twice before publishing your thoughts or sharing personal details on your social media profiles. The “delete” key does not make you immune to data privacy issues.

Create Passwords That Are Difficult to Crack

In 2022, the two most common passwords were “password” and “123456.” The reality is that these options would take cyberhackers less than one second to crack.

To create a password that is difficult to crack, be sure to use at least 12–15 characters, incorporate uppercase and lowercase letters, and sprinkle multiple symbols throughout. Additionally, avoid using names, birthdays, and any other personal data in your password.

While it might be a hassle to log in with a longer and more complicated password, it is certainly a better option than the alternative—having someone get access to your account and personal information.

Browse the Internet Safely with a VPN

A VPN, or virtual private network, is a browsing tool that gives you anonymity when using the internet. By hiding your name, IP address, location, and other information about you, cybercriminals aren’t able to track you down and mine your personal data.

Today, it’s estimated that over 1.6 billion people use VPNs when using the internet. That’s 31% of all users! Don’t leave your personal data to chance. Invest in a trusted virtual private network and safeguard your digital footprint whenever you use the world wide web.

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