Our digital footprint consists of many things. Firstly, there are the obvious things: our social media pages, the comments we’ve made on posts and news articles, our contributions to forums, digital reviews, and YouTube content.
But this is just the tip of the iceberg. Beneath the surface, most of our digital lives occur entirely unbeknownst to us.
Our browsing behavior, shopping habits, interests and disinterests, viewing patterns, even our health information – it’s all there, out of sight and mind.
For that reason alone, it’s always a good time to remove your data from the internet, although many still don’t realize how important it is.
So, if you’re looking for a genuinely helpful New Year’s resolution, keep reading to find out why a clean (digital) slate is the best thing you could do.
A data resolution is not yet on the cards.
Data brokers are exploiting user data, but the real issue stems from the fact that what they’re doing is mainly legal.
With no comprehensive, up-to-date legislation stopping them, they’re free to run against the moral tide as much as they are willing and continue leveraging unsuspecting internet users’ cookie-crumb trails for their gain.
Of course, there are frameworks in place – or the works. GDPR is the leading example, but the US is still playing catch-up.
Implementing the California Consumer Privacy Act and the new Delete Act represented pivotal moments in the country’s history. Still, there’s a long way to go before any state is up to battling the brokers.
For now, the only reliable solution is for internet users to take matters into their own hands.
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It’s control over the unknown.
We don’t know the extent of what companies and brokers do with our data. Some of it may well be innocuous and dull data science, and a fair share of it will be for our benefit.
Still, there’s always that unknown quantity – the ever-present risk that the wrong person has got their hands on our data and is planning to use it in a way that proves harmful to our finances, reputations, or sense of safety.
Just because it hasn’t happened yet doesn’t mean it won’t. In 2022 alone, around 422 million people were affected by data breaches. There was a terrifying spike in 2016 – the time of the Cambridge Analytica scandal – when over 2,541 million were affected in a single year.
Of course, that case was sufficiently noteworthy that it’s unlikely to repeat itself, but that doesn’t mean we’re anywhere near out of the woods.
Even after the scandal, user data remains one of the most valuable assets any business has, and the overwhelming majority of data stems from the last two years.
You don’t know who has your data, how much they know, or what they intend to do with it. With no resolution on the cards, erasing your digital footprint is one of the best things you can do for your security in 2024.
Data breaches are getting more frequent.
The past few years have seen many high- and lower-profile data breaches impact businesses and their customers, and a new study published by Apple shows that the worst is certainly not far behind us.
Compared with 2022, this year has seen a 20% uptick in the number of data breaches taking place across the US.
Given that the world is finally waking up to the exploitative practices of the most significant data harvesters, the fact that data breaches are growing more commonplace is worrying.
We must remember that a data breach doesn’t have to be at the same scale as Ashley Madison or Yahoo to devastate those affected.
Remembering that just because you haven’t been affected yet doesn’t mean the castle can’t come crumbling down tomorrow is essential.
Data breaches are about more than third parties learning what kinds of clothes you like to order or what documentaries you binge.
Identity theft and financial fraud are huge earners for cybercriminals, and every one of us represents a potential boost to their bottom line.
As we said earlier, there’s never a wrong time to take back control – and it’s far easier than most assume.
The time for complacency has passed, and we cannot maintain our internet habits without the proper proactive safeguards.