Your digital footprint is the record of everything you do and everywhere you go on the Internet. Also called an electronic footprint, it includes websites you visit, emails you read or send, and information you submit to online forms on other sites or transmit through apps on your phone. Your digital footprint leaves a trail showing your online activities that can be followed by anyone with the knowledge and skills to do so.
Want to learn more about your digital footprint, including how to protect yourself from unwanted intrusion and how to safely manage your online activities? Here is an in-depth look at the facts about your electronic footprint and how you can manage it.
Digital Footprint: A Deep Dive
Your digital footprint is made up of a trail of “breadcrumbs” that you leave whenever you use any type of web-based service, whether it is a mobile app, a website, or an online shopping cart. It may not be obvious to you that you are leaving behind a trail, since so much of the data collection on websites and apps goes on behind the scenes. Once you give permission for an app or site to collect your data, it may be shared with third parties or used to direct ads to you for shopping based on your browsing patterns. This can lead to unwanted email, and pop-up ads, and can even lead to a compromising of your data if the site is not fully secure.
You can leave an active or a passive digital footprint. Active digital footprints happen when you deliberately share your information, perhaps by creating a profile on a website and logging in. In this case, you are aware that you are sharing your name, phone number, email address, or other information with the site and whoever might be able to access it. On many websites, you are encouraged to share your email in order to subscribe to a newsletter or emails for various discounts or promotions. You may also be prompted to allow certain activities, such as accepting cookies on your browser, when visiting a website. This is also considered actively leaving a footprint since it is happening with your knowledge. For most people, controlling active digital footprints is not very difficult.
Passive digital footprints are created when you are not aware that your information is being collected. This is much more difficult to control since most users are not aware it is taking place. This hidden process happens when websites collect information about how many times you visit, your originating IP address, and other data. You may not realize it is happening, but when you visit a social networking site and like a post, hidden processes may collect your data and push you toward certain content.
Why Should I Worry About My Digital Footprint?
Digital footprints are important for one very good reason: they are permanent. Once various organizations or entities have collected your data, you have no control over how they will use it. That social media post from a year ago, that you have already forgotten about, may be used today to create targeted ads for you that bombard you with unwanted content. Worse still, others may use your digital footprint to manipulate your online reputation. For a business, in particular, this can be a very damaging and costly experience.
How Can I Protect My Digital Footprint?
There are several ways you can help protect your digital footprint and manage how people see you online.
- Check yourself out. Do a quick search of your personal and business names. What information is easily available? Is any of it negative? Set up alerts to inform you of anything that becomes public in the future, as well.
- Manage your sources. You can remove your name and image from certain sources, such as online “white pages” and personal websites. If you are uncomfortable with your name or information being on these websites, contact them and have it removed.
- Check your privacy settings. Social media can be a wonderful tool to use for your personal and business benefit, but you should check your privacy settings to be sure that your message is only reaching the people you want to reach. Many social media sites allow you to customize who can see and interact with your profile. Take advantage of these settings to limit possible negative postings and unwanted spam.
- Don’t use public Wi-Fi, or use a VPN. It is tempting to take advantage of free wifi in coffee shops or hotels, but your data may not be secure. Be sure you are covering your tracks by using a VPN, and avoid sharing private information while on a public network whenever possible.
- Update software. One of the best free defenses you have at your disposal is the ability to update your software on all your devices. Whenever the manufacturer or owner of the software pushes an update notification, be sure to follow instructions–it will help you avoid possible breaches and problems.
At Caldiatech, we have spent many years working with businesses to create strong marketing plans that help them thrive in the online world. Give us a call today to discuss your needs, and find out how easy it can be to build a robust online profile that is safe, secure, and effective!