A number of years ago, I read a comment that really stuck with me – an acquaintance of mine posted a picture of their grandchild to their social media account. It was a silly and cute picture, but perhaps one that should be saved as a memory for family, and not shared online. The comment was very polite and respectful, just reminding her friend that when we post pictures of ourselves and others, we are creating our “digital footprints”, and in this case, it was for a child who has no say in what was posted and might not appreciate that particular photo as much as their grandma. That simple comment was a good reminder to me, to be thoughtful in what I choose to share, especially if what I am sharing has not been ok’d by anyone else involved, first. If you use the internet, then you are leaving a digital footprint. This is not necessarily a negative, because your footprint includes all of the positive content that you chose to share, blog about and like, but knowledge can help keep you aware, and sometimes safe, in this regard too.
What makes up your digital footprint?
It is the “trail of data you leave when using the internet. It includes websites you visit, emails you send, and information you submit online.” There are a number of different ways that we leave our footprints, but the 2 that appear to be most common are:
- Actively, which is when you knowingly participate online by posting to social media, providing your email address to receive information (eg. newsletters), filling out online forms and surveys, and by clicking yes to install cookies.
- Passively, which is when you are not aware of the information being obtained, such as, by companies that install cookies without your consent and use your Facebook likes and shares to obtain general and sometimes personal information about you.
And now that we know this, we have the option to try to maintain some control over what we leave behind and learn about the different ways we can protect ourselves, and others in some cases.
Can you ever delete your digital footprint, and would you want to?
According to Kaspersky, we cannot completely delete our digital footprints, but we can be more mindful of how we manage it. We can help ourselves by taking a few easy steps:
- Check the privacy settings on your devices and social media accounts to ensure they are set to the standard of privacy you are most comfortable with.
- Accept software updates as you receive them.
- Creating passwords that would be difficult to figure out.
And these are just 3 of the many suggestions available!
There are also many ways that you can check what your footprint currently looks like, two of which are to search your name in different search engines to see what pops up, and by not sharing too much personal information in general, particularly when using public wi-fi and social media. Your individual footprint can help you to build a positive online presence (contributing to your personal brand!), the advertising received to your social media accounts can be more geared towards your interests, and it is easier to trace the people looking to commit fraud if we leave a trail. What does your digital footprint currently look like, and are you interested in learning how to maintain it?
Facebook: What digital footprints are you leaving behind? Find out how to create a good path going forward. Check out my blog:
Twitter: How can your digital footprint benefit you? Learn more here: