Tech Tips: How to find out everything the Internet knows about you

By , on August 10, 2015

(Shutterstock image)
(Shutterstock image)

Knowing that not everything privately posted online remains private, exactly how much personal information are you making available in the Internet? You may not be fully aware but you may be disclosing more sensitive data in the web than intended.

Here we show the information you’re inadvertently giving out online and tell you about data leaks – personal information ending in the public domain which websites, advertising companies and even government agencies may know.

While sharing information in the Internet is unavoidable and completely deleting data already in it cannot be done, we suggest ways to prevent further leaks and reduce your digital footprint.

So, here’s everything the web knows about you.

Who you are

Search Google or other search engines for your name or the name of a person you know. You’d then discover that there is very little privacy online. The results don’t just end with one page. There’s a second, third and more pages about or related to you. Sadly, some information may end up in the first page even if you don’t want them to.

In fact, Google knows everything you’ll ever look for. It doesn’t just feed data; it gets data from you as well – the sites you visit, what social networking sites you belong to, the address of your computer and so much more. If you have a Google account and log into it while searching the web, you make it easier for them to gather information about you and your online activities.

And it’s not just Google. All websites you sign up to will know your browsing habits.  Think of Facebook, which may know more about you than your family and friends. The more social networking sites you belong to, the more traces you leave that lead to your identity.

So, how do you limit your digital footprint? Sign out of your media account before searching for anything in the Internet. Also opt searching in incognito and avoid indicating personal details unnecessarily.

What you say and share

Everything you say and share on the web is public if you don’t take precautionary measures to keep them private. Yes you can always delete unwanted posts and messages in Facebook and Twitter later on but it’s likely that there will still be records of them somewhere. Another person might have already copied and shared your posts elsewhere before you decided to remove them. Google and other search engines also have caches which may contain deleted posts.

There are ways to limit your visibility in the web though by changing public settings to private. But just to be safe, think carefully before sending a message or posting any photo. You can also remove Google cache contents of deleted posts by going to its Content Removal Page.

Where you go

Every move you make online is tracked.  Cookies, which are small data stored on your system by sites you visit, can track where you go. These cookies are then used by advertisers for them to determine which ads you’ve seen. There’s also the web history, though you can regularly clear them or switch to private browsing.

Luckily, some web browsers now have built-in Do Not Track options. But when used alone, they may not come out completely effective. And so, adding a privacy tool may come as handy. DoNotTrackMe, which is one of the best privacy tools, tells if you are being tracked and which persons, companies or organizations are behind it. Disconnect, which is another privacy add-on, prevents Google, Yahoo, Facebook, Twitter and other media websites from tracking your online activities by blocking cookies. Aside from these two, other reputable privacy tools are Ghostery, AVG Do Not Track, I Like Privacy for Chrome and PrivacyFix, among others. You don’t need all these tools though. Just use the one that best suits your need.