Your digital footprint basically includes all traces of your online activities; your comments on any news articles, interaction on the social media posts and the records of your online purchases.
You may spend a good amount of your time online, reading news articles, updating Facebook, tweeting and ordering items online and while you do so, you leave a virtual trail behind. However, the problem is that once something is out there on the Internet, it cannot go away just like that. Although it might seem benign, it really isn’t.
One can tell a lot about you from your digital footprint. For instance, what you do for a living, your address, your hobbies, political views and personality traits to name a few. Every time you post online, share any content or when a website installs cookies on your device to collect information about you, you are creating a digital trail.
How can My Digital Footprint land me in Trouble
Many people have faced trouble owing to their digital footprint. For instance, Hollywood celebs have faced criticisms owing to their newly discovered past social media posts, constituting a social media footprint. An 8-year-old tweet cost Kevin Hurt the opportunity to host the Oscars despite distancing himself from those views.
At least 70% of the employers look up the social media profiles of their potential employees and may reject the candidates, given their footprint despite their skill set. Your digital footprint forms your online identity and can show up every time someone searches for your name online as a basis of character assessment.
Therefore, no matter what you do online, it is critical for you to know what kind of trail you are leaving behind and what consequences can it bring to you.
Types of Digital Footprint or Electronic Footprint
As far as the question of how we leave behind these digital footprints is concerned, it can happen in many ways. They can be divided into two main categories:
- Active digital footprints – Active digital footprints are the ones you leave behind actively or intentionally, by yourself.
- Passive digital footprints – Passive digital footprints are the ones you do not know about, for instance, undeclared cookies or tools that may reveal your location.
Recommendations for reducing your Digital Footprint/Electronic Footprint
So, how can you ensure that your digital past does not come to haunt you at a later stage of your life? The easiest solution is not to post anything objectionable online or anything you may not be comfortable sharing with your employers. You must be vigilant of what you share or post online and exercise good judgment and rational thinking, for instance, refraining from ranting about your boss and spewing hate. Your digital footprint would be fine if you do so.
On the other hand, you can track your electronic footprint and take steps towards controlling it, including the following:
Check your name in different search engines
Search your first and last name in different search engines and review the first two result pages and see whether they are positive and show you in a positive and respectful light? Should you encounter anything that’s not positive in that regard, request the site’s admin to bring it down.
You can set up Google Alerts to receive notifications and keep an eye on instances where your name is mentioned online.
Build a Positive Digital Footprint
Post only such content that contributes positively to the kind of image you want to cultivate and for your bosses, colleagues, professors to see. You can choose not to post controversial tweets, untag from questionable Facebook photos and keep critical opinions to yourself. You can instead opt to build a positive reputation by beginning a blog showing your professional work or a certain talent you have. You must be wary of what you like, comment or share online at all times.
Chose a browser that can do the following:
- Turn Off Third-Party Cookies
- Enable you to browse anonymously
- Allow Privacy Plugins
How a VPN helps you take care of your Digital Footprint
A great way of protecting your digital footprint is, using a Virtual Private Network or VPN to protect your privacy online. A reliable and secure VPN can provide you much needed online privacy and anonymity by creating a private network. Moreover, since a VPN masks your IP address, all of your online activities become absolutely untraceable.
Your digital footprint tells the story of who you are. You can think of it as an online extension of the real you, created by your actions for the world to see. It is impossible to have ZERO footprints in 2019 unless you are living in a cave, but taking the first step towards reducing your digital footprint and managing it isn’t that hard and merely involves getting a VPN.