Decluttering the Cloud: How to Minimize Your Digital Footprint



Written by Avery Phillips

The urge to take your office, business, or household paperless holds countless advantages. No more file cabinets full of records, no countless bills in the mail, no more bank statements laying around, and a lot less shredding of sensitive documents as they age all sound pretty good, and they are. 

However, digital storage is not without cost. There is no such thing as the cloud. The cloud is simply someone else's computer, and that computer takes power and resources to run. While most cloud server farms are going green and use renewable energy, there are still resources used to store your data. 

There is also the issue of privacy. The more of your data that is online and the more places you store it, the more vulnerable you are. While there is more cloud adoption with businesses than ever before, 54 percent of those businesses are vulnerable to cyberattacks. 

So how do you declutter your personal cloud and minimize your digital footprint?

Virtual Minimalism

We all know about physical minimalism and getting rid of excess personal belongings. There is something to be said for the organization and proper storage of our things, and doing so can even save money. However, how do we take those same principles and apply them to our data in the cloud? 

The difference is that you can see the pile of clothes you need to donate, but it is more difficult to see the things you need to get rid of in the cloud. Here are some questions to consider: 

●      Do I need this digital item anymore? Does it bring me joy? Think of movies you have purchased digitally rather than rented, music you could access with a subscription service rather than purchasing, and photos you may not need or want any more.

●      Do I need to share this data? Much of the data we put online can be at risk, but no one can hack it if you don't share in the first place. This includes turning on location services in apps and storing items in Google Drive, Google Mail, One Drive, Dropbox, and other services.

●      What is my data history? This includes clearing cookies, browser history, and more to minimize the impact of cross-site tracking, other marketing techniques, and the amount of information about you that is on the web. 

All of this means taking control and going through your own cloud data. Know what and when you are sharing, as well as who you are sharing it with. Assess what is at risk and minimize the information you put in the cloud and what you store there.

A New Kind of Privacy

The days of protecting your privacy by closing the blinds, locking the doors and keeping your data in secure, fireproof cabinets is long over. Much of who we are and what we do is online. This rise in the need for data privacy is also leading to a huge surge in the adoption of cloud technology from business to healthcare and personal data. 

For instance, 83 percent of doctors have implemented electronic healthcare records management services. There are rules about this data, as healthcare providers have to make electronic records HIPAA compliant the same as they do any physical records. It is their responsibility to protect your data, but it is your job to ask questions. 

●      If you are in a study, is your data anonymized so your identity is protected?

●      How much information do providers share with your insurance company? What does your insurance company do to protect that data?

●      What data does not need to be included (doctor's notes, other personal data)?

●      How is your data protected in transit if you switch doctors or see a specialist who needs your records? 

This new privacy goes beyond healthcare though. What other data do you have on the cloud that is no longer needed? What are your privacy settings in different areas, and how do you manage that privacy? In the digital age it is more about how you control what you share, what information of yours is in the cloud, and who can access it. The new GDPR rules force many websites to better protect your data and tell you when and how they will use it. It is your job to pay attention to these terms so that you know what exactly is being done with your data.

Rewriting Credit History

Nowhere is cloud data more important and the need for cleanup more evident than in your credit history. You can now hire pros who will help you with cleaning up your credit score, but this is not always faster than taking action yourself, and again you are sharing data with another company digitally. 

You should be aware of things like phantom debt, or debt that is not yours or is inaccurate. Staying on top of that data is key to keeping your credit score both accurate and on the positive side. This can all be dependent on cloud data. Here are a few keys to rewriting your credit history: 

●      Review your credit history now. Have inaccurate or old items removed and clean up old debts that may be harming your score.

●      Set alerts. When someone checks your credit score, get notified. Also get notified if it goes up or down significantly so you can investigate why.

●      Freeze your credit when you don't need it. When you are not applying for loans, trying to buy a house, or even getting credit cards, freeze your credit so that, even with your data, a hacker cannot apply for credit in your name. 

Having our credit histories stored on the cloud is great, but with all the data we share every single day, we may be vulnerable to attack. Protect yourself and know instantly if you have issues so you can stop theft before it begins. 

Your digital footprint depends on you. You can control your privacy and the data you share and store on the cloud. It's up to you where that data goes and who has access to it, so minimize your digital footprint and become a virtual minimalist.

##

About the Author


Avery Phillips is a unicorn of a human being who loves all things relating to people and their entrepreneurial spirits. Comment down below or tweet her @a_taylorian.