Web pages may store bits of information about who you are in files called "cookies" on your computer, and your browser will store the sites you've visited in a history file--thus creating your digital footprint.
Even if you're not online, programs will store histories of the files you've opened, played, or viewed.
Cookies are created to recognize users when they return to a Web site; they make Web use quicker and make it possible to offer customized content to a user. But they can be a threat to your privacy if they store sensitive information like your name and password on protected login pages, preferences, account information, and choices you have made on the site.
Here's how to lessen your digital footprint:
- Use Clear All History to delete cookies in most Web browsers.
- When you log in to a site and the computer asks whether you want it to remember you, don't do it--even if you're using your home PC. This makes it more difficult for someone to retrieve personal information about you.
- Try "Browzar." The new search engine Browzar acts as an online vacuum cleaner that removes Internet caches, histories, cookies, and online autoforms (the online tool that anticipates the Web address or search engine term based on data you've previously entered online and is stored on the browser).
- Consider purchasing software programs that help eliminate your digital footprint such as McAfee, says Dorothy Steffens, vice president of Web services for the Credit Union National Association, in Madison, Wis.
Portions of this article were derived from the Home & Family Finance(R) Resource Center. To read the entire article covering more on digital footprints, how they're made and how to protect yourself, click here.