Taking Back Control: What Is a Digital Footprint?

Have you ever wondered how much information there is about you freely available on the internet? It’s more than you realize.

Every time you browse, read, or click online, you’re leaving a trail of footprints in the sand of the internet. Unlike footprints on the seashore that get blown or washed away, your digital footprints are permanent. 

This leaves you with two questions, how much information is out there, and what can you do about it? If you’d like to know how to find and fix your digital footprint, keep reading.

How Is a Digital Footprint Used?

All the information about you that is available online makes up your digital footprint. This isn’t limited to things that you actively post, but also includes information scraped passively as you browse websites or use search engines.

This information can be used to gain personal information about you, such as political affiliations, religion, demographics, interests, or shopping habits.

Cookies are used to store login information, keep items in an online shopping cart, and remember store preferences. Advertisers use your digital footprint for customized advertising. That’s why if you search for a pair of sneakers you’ll find sneaker adverts flooding your social media feeds.

Potential employers perform online background checks as part of the hiring practice. A negative digital footprint can affect your reputation score by delivering questionable search results. This can impact future employment possibilities.

How to Manage Your Digital Footprint

Using the internet is unavoidable in this day and age. The good news is that there are things that will minimize your negative digital footprint:

Search Your Name

Get into the habit of checking your name every few months so that you know what’s out there. Use a variety of different search engines as they’ll give you different results. What shows up will give you a good idea of what others have access to. 

Use Google Alerts

Setting a Google alert for your name will help you keep tabs on any posts that come up that mention you. This gives you a heads-up should you ever need to take action.

Keep Personal Data to Yourself

Don’t freely share your home address, phone number, bank card number, or passwords. Consider using a pseudonym instead of your real name.

Lock Down Login Info

Usernames and passwords are for your eyes only. If you need to keep them written down to help your memory, keep the record in a secure place that only you have access to.

Post For Permanence

If your post is fueled by a temporary emotion, don’t post it. Emotions come and go, but what’s online lasts forever. Think carefully before posting. 

The same applies to images. Any image you post will linger and can bubble back to the surface at any time. Post no questionable images, nothing cringeworthy. Filter everything through what you’d be happy to show your seven-year-old niece.

A Positive Digital Footprint

A strong, positive online presence can help you land your dream job. If you have products that your market or sell, an appealing online footprint can bring in new customers. 

A digital footprint is not something to be avoided. Rather, it should be cultivated to accurately reflect who you are, your values, and what you do.

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