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Data Detox Week 8: What Comes Next?

In May, Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh will host The Glass Room, an interactive exhibit examining the ramifications of always-on, always-connected technology on personal privacy. As a lead up to this process, the Library is offering an abridged version of Data Detox, an 8-week series devoted to regaining control over your digital footprint. This is the eighth post in that series.

logo for The Glass Room Digital Privacy project. A stylized box sits next to the text THE GLASS ROOM against a white background.

Congratulations! You made it through seven weeks of data detox! Hopefully these lessons have given you a better sense of how to control your online footprint and prevent technology from harvesting all your personal data. But as anyone who has started a gym membership in January can attest, there’s a huge difference between taking that first step and turning it into an ongoing practice.

Setting Goals

Think back over the last seven posts in this program. What worked for you? What can you feasibly integrate into your daily routine? Your ongoing data detox challenge will be to take a few minutes every so often to maintain your data footprint.

Here are a few things to consider. What may help is to make a list of things that should be checked weekly or monthly. You can then set calendar reminders that match that interval to help you get started. (Some of these settings can even be made on your browser or device.)

Regular Cleanup:

  • Clear your browser history.
  • Delete your cookies.
  • Delete apps you no longer use.
  • Un-tag yourself from posts and pictures.
  • Clear your wifi history.
  • Pay with cash instead of a credit card.

Set Boundaries:

  • Restrict tagging on social media.
  • Create strong, unique passwords on your accounts – and change them regularly.

Have Fun With It:

  • Leave your phone at home once in a while.
  • Swap a store loyalty card with a friend for a brief span of time.
  • Insert some “noise” into your footprint by tagging yourself in random photos or “Liking” random things.
  • Change timezones in your social media accounts.

Stay Organized:

  • Set boundaries on your social media use – give yourself ground rules on what to share, who to post images of, and how much time you spend online.
  • Limit permissions on your apps.
  • Use different search engines for different things.
  • Use different browsers for different things.

All of this is meant to be an ongoing process, which means that your methods might change over time. Do what you can, and set up occasional “gut checks” to evaluate whether you are comfortable with your digital footprint.

The final thing to keep in mind: data detox is a social activity. Even if you’re taking steps to thin out your footprint, friends or family who tag you or post photos also contribute to your data profile. Take some time to share this information with your network. The resources in Data Detox can go a long way toward starting the conversation.


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