Take a moment and think about all the ways you have used the internet over the years. Do you feel embarrassed about anything you’ve shared on social media? Have you ever regretted a negative opinion you shared online? Would you feel hesitant about sharing your search history with your colleagues or parents?
If you’re like most people, you probably don’t have a flawless online presence. Nearly everyone has shared something they regret, whether it’s an unflattering photo or a mean-spirited comment. But even when people recognize their mistakes and delete their posts, the evidence of their activity is never truly erased.
Everything you have ever shared, commented on, or accessed online is part of your permanent online identity, or digital footprint; and it can be tracked by numerous organizations.
According to experts from the Internet Society, your digital footprint includes everything you do online. Each social media comment, Skype call, app, email, and website you’ve visited can be seen by other people, or even tracked in a database. Even if you don’t explicitly share anything, like when you’re shopping online, your activity is still recorded. It doesn’t matter whether you use a smartphone, tablet, or laptop; when you’re online, your activity is being monitored.
Perhaps you aren’t too worried about your digital footprint. Maybe you rarely post on social media, or you mostly use the internet for doing some online shopping. However, even when you don’t make active choices, your passive digital footprint is still left behind. Passive digital footprints occur when sites install cookies without asking permission first, or when apps suggest things based on your location. You might not even realize your actions are being tracked at all!
In addition, any of your old emails or social media accounts can affect your digital footprint: especially since they’re incredibly susceptible to hacking. Millions of people abandon sites and apps once the newest trend appears, and not many think of deleting their old, unused accounts. Countless users on MySpace, Twitter, and LinkedIn have had their emails and personal information stolen by hackers simply because they never cleaned up their tracks.
So, how can you improve your digital footprint? First, remember to delete old apps or accounts that you no longer use. Then, change your password for all of your active accounts every couple months, and make sure your antivirus software is kept up-to-date. Finally, next time you download an app, double-check the information it wants access to. Some apps can access your email or track your location and online activities.
As long as you follow these tips and make sure your social media pages are positive and work-appropriate, you won’t have to worry about your digital footprint affecting you negatively.