Every time you enter a query in a search engine, visit a website, or post something to your online accounts, you add to your digital footprint. Managing your digital footprint is of paramount importance: it can affect everything from the impression you make on an employer to the prices you see when searching for services online. Use these strategies to control the information about you that is accessible online.

Think Before You Post

One of the greatest sources of information that makes up your digital footprint comes from what you put up yourself on your social media accounts on platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn. Even if you have your profiles set to private, it may be possible for strangers or potential employers to see posts and photos you think only approved friends and connections can see. Posts or photos that you think you’ve deleted or taken down may already have been copied, screenshot, or cached; posting on the internet is much more like writing in ink than in pencil.

Checking your profile settings for things like tagging permissions and how public your account is are good places to start. Always check content before you post it and think twice about voicing controversial opinions or using not-safe-for-work language, even on your personal pages. Think twice before posting photographs that show you partying and definitely don’t post any that show you participating in activities that may be considered questionable or illegal. If you wouldn’t want your grandmother to read it or see it, it’s probably best to keep it offline.

Go Incognito

Every time you put something through a search engine or visit a website, a log of that search or visit is created and stored. These logs are used to track your online activity, and they can be viewed by everyone from your internet service provider to government agencies. These records can be used to affect the results search engines present to you and the prices you’re shown for products and services.

To protect yourself and decrease your footprint, consider browsing in incognito or private mode or utilizing a virtual private network, or VPN. These options can limit the number of cookies sites can install on your devices and prevent your browsing history from being mined.

Understanding what your digital footprint is and how it can be used is an important part of being a responsible online citizen, and managing it effectively can reduce the possibility of it having a negative impact on your life offline.