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Remove confidential information from your email account – things like your bank account number or tax documentation. You can do this by deleting unnecessary messages and keeping important records offline. If possible, consider opening a more secure email account – Protonmail and Fastmail are popular alternatives to Gmail.
Avoid using public WiFi – all of your Internet traffic and personal information is vulnerable when you do! If can't avoid using public WiFi (and most people can't), consider using a VPN, Virtual Private Network, to mask your activities and create a private network whenever you log on. Though subscription-based paid VPN services offer greater benefits, you can use a limited version of ProtonVPN for free. VPNs are great tools to use on your personal WiFi as well!
Get a password manager and remove old or repetitive passwords – One of the easiest ways to make your personal information less vulnerable to hacking is by using stronger passwords. With a free or low-cost password manager like LastPass or 1Password, you can generate secure passwords, save passwords, and keep private notes – and you'll only have to remember your one master password!
Update your browsers and operating system – another easy way to make sure that you're keeping your computer, phone, and personal information a little more secure.
Consider adding an adblocker – You've probably noticed how sophisticated online tracking has become and now see ads online for products you might not even remember looking up! If you use a free adblocker like PrivacyBadger or uBlock Origin, you can block up ads on up to 99% of the sites you visit.
Search yourself on Google or DuckDuckGo and remove information that is personal or overly identifying – If you are concerned about your online footprint, start by removing content from and updating your privacy settings on social media profiles and other sources that you have direct control over. Beyond what you knowingly share, data brokers like WhitePages and Spokeo also gather information about us and, most often, monetize and publicly share it without our consent. Many data brokers offer Opt-Out options that require you to send an individual request to remove you information. Once you find your information on one of these sites, you can search the name of that site alongside the phrase "opt-out" and follow the instructions. If you are prompted to give additional personal information like your social security number or any bank information, do not fill out the form.
Remember that your computer and mobile device are separate entities and can be equally "leaky" – adding an adblocker to the web browser on your computer won't block ads on your other devices, so you'll need to be proactive about making changes across your digital lifestyle.
Do what works for you! – Taking control of your digital footprint should be easy and done on your own terms. Since there is no way to avoid all the technologies of Big Tech Giants like Amazon or Google, allow yourself to use the programs you like and block the rest. Maybe you can easily switch to a more user-centered, privacy-focused email provider but you need to use Facebook to maintain relationships with friends and family in other parts of the country or world. That's okay! Every intervention is a positive step and will give you more say about what kind of information companies and other people know about you.