It has become almost impossible to avoid using the internet during the past decade. And there has been a lot of discussion in recent years about controlling our digital footprints.
Whether you despise or welcome new technology, it’s fair to argue that the internet has simplified our lives in many ways. Its applications are many, ranging from researching to holding conference calls to video conferencing with family and friends. Indeed, the internet has facilitated communication with family, friends, coworkers, and even strangers.
However, by establishing an online world for ourselves, we create our own digital footprint. When not utilized carefully, these digital traces may have negative effects. It’s critical to understand what your digital footprint is and how to protect yourself.
What is a digital footprint?
A digital footprint is defined as “information about a specific person that exists on the internet as a result of their online activity.” A digital footprint leaves a trail of information about your online activities. For example, search terms used, websites visited, emails sent, and any online forms completed and submitted.
This information enables businesses to target you with the information they believe will be of interest to you. That is why the advertisements you see often seem to be for items you have already looked for, such as automobiles, clothes, or films.
Additionally, your digital footprint includes comments you make on social media, links you share with friends, and participation in online conversations. While you may feel free to make certain comments in discussions with friends and even strangers, your words may be seen by a larger audience than you anticipated. This is especially true if your privacy settings are not sufficiently secure.
Strangers reading your remarks may think they are insignificant. However, a recruiting team may sometimes do an internet search for you, and public remarks made in jest may dissuade a prospective employer from employing you. Certain remarks posted on social media platforms may potentially be grounds for dismissal if they violate corporate policy.
Why do I need to reduce my digital footprint?
If you exercise caution while posting online comments, it’s tough to envision the additional problems that a digital footprint might create. You may believe that if your purchasing habits, social media activity, and online chats were to fall into the hands of a stranger, they would pose no danger.
Confidential information, on the other hand, such as our national identification number or credit card number, is vulnerable to fraud or identity theft. As a result, minimizing one’s digital footprint may be very advantageous.
Some of our online activities are passive, such as searching for information via a search engine. Other online activities, such as writing emails or engaging with pals on Facebook, are ongoing. Your digital footprint increases each time you update a status, tweet, or upload a picture to one of your social media sites.
While it is visible on the web, anybody who views it has the option of saving the information or picture you originally provided and using it in any way they want. While you can delete posts, there is no assurance that they will ever be deleted from the company’s servers.
Consideration or scheduling of a post allows you to evaluate your content before publishing it publicly. Before you send an email, a message, or publish information or pictures online, consider whether you need or desire that information to be accessible indefinitely.
How to manage your digital footprint
There are many straightforward measures you can take to minimize your digital footprint. We’ll discuss steps you can take if you’re considering personal information protection or internet safety.
1. Geo-tagged photos
For some, it is a necessary component of sharing information about everything we do on social media. Selfies, stunning views, and delicious breakfasts may all entice us to share our adventures with the world. Whether you post a single picture, an album, geographical data, or a clever tag line, each aspect of your profile tells something about you.
As previously said, once a picture is uploaded on the internet, it is almost impossible to completely delete it. Additionally, you should use caution while uploading geotagged pictures. A geotagged picture may contain latitude and longitude information, revealing the precise location of the photograph.
This may disclose personally identifiable information about you, such as the location of your residence. When submitting pictures in real-time, you risk providing other internet users with the precise coordinates of your current location.
2. Photos of other people
While we’re on the subject of pictures, it’s one thing to post a snapshot of yourself or some stunning landscape you’ve seen. Posting pictures that involve other individuals, whether they be friends, family, or strangers, has its own set of complications.
According to some experts, more caution should be used when posting pictures of one’s children. You may be used to making all of their decisions for them throughout their infanthood.
However, posting pictures of children before they have a chance to make their own decision may result in a potentially hazardous internet presence. And this is before kids are even capable of walking, much less using the internet. Certain youngsters may develop resentment against the internet profile that was built for them without their permission.
3. Photos to avoid sharing
When it comes to uploading pictures online, there is a common rule: “Do not post anything containing your private information.”
While traveling overseas may be thrilling, use caution with what you post to your friends and followers. While sharing a picture of your passport or boarding ticket may seem like a fantastic photo opportunity, you may disclose more information than you want.
It has been said that by disclosing portions of one’s passport or e-ticket information, one may get access to one’s trip plans or frequent flyer numbers.
When it comes to sharing, use caution in what you share. You do not need to share your driver’s license, credit card, or marriage certificate on social media.
4. Utilization of unfamiliar Wi-Fi
Numerous public locations, including cafés and retail malls, provide free public Wi-Fi. While this is welcomed by some, particularly those without mobile data, it is prudent to exercise caution.
While the majority of people use public Wi-Fi for benign purposes, hackers may exploit unprotected Wi-Fi to spread malware. Public Wi-Fi connections that are provided for free may utilize unencrypted networks that are more susceptible to cyber threats. This may result in you receiving more than you bargained for. Whenever feasible, use private or trustworthy connections.
Pro-tip: Always remember to log out of the websites to which you have signed in, much more so if they were visited through a shared computer!
5. Online purchases
When purchasing anything online, you want to be certain that the vendor is genuine. You’d expect your purchase information to be handled properly and your personal information, including your delivery address, to be kept in line with applicable data protection regulations.
Research the store and ensure their website is safe before making a purchase. Conduct research online and make purchases only while connected to your own private Wi-Fi. Taking these measures will assist you in protecting yourself while buying online.
6. Microphone and camera device
Many of us seldom utilize the camera or microphone on our laptops. You may be more conscious of their presence if you are used to conducting online voice or video conversations. You should be aware of the small camera at the top of your laptop screen.
When not in use, several individuals, like Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, cover their camera, webcam, and microphone to avoid being videotaped or recorded unintentionally.
Similarly, it would be prudent to check the settings on your smartphone. Disable applications from utilizing your microphone or camera to guarantee they are not “listening in” or “watching” on you.
For years, there has been discussion about how some applications are “listening in” on users’ activities, such as what they watch and browse. After the data is processed and analyzed, you may be shown advertisements that are more likely to engage you.
Assist your children in staying safe
Children are increasingly able to use the internet, owing to the availability of specifically built phones and tablets for children. Children are impressionable and may be unaware of the hazards lurking online.
By grasping the concept of digital footprints, you may take measures to safeguard your children by instilling in them an awareness of online safety and data collection. It is critical to monitor your child’s internet use to ensure they are not unintentionally putting themselves in danger.
A useful idea to ponder when it comes to online safety and maintaining your digital footprint is whether you would do what you are about to do in real life. Would you feel comfortable sharing a picture on a bus with strangers? Or would you make provocative remarks in front of a group of strangers (or even your family)? If the answer is no, you may discover that the picture you were going to upload or the remark you were ready to write is not something you want to include in your digital footprint. While the internet is a wonderful tool for communication, education, research, and leisure, we must exercise caution and safety while utilizing it.