Tracking your digital footprint

Tracking your digital footprint

Most of us have social media accounts these days. We’re fast becoming a generation of sharers, followers, likers, tweeters, and snapchatters! But whether you’re an ‘app savvy’ ultra-user, or an occasional dipper, what do you know about your ‘digital footprint’?

What is a digital footprint?

The UK’s Centre for the Protection of National Infrastructure (CPNI) describes it best:

“A digital footprint is the data that’s left behind whenever you use a digital service, or whenever someone posts information about you onto a digital forum, such as a social network”.

Do I have a digital footprint?

Most of us have a digital footprint; it’s completely normal. And whenever you use an online or digital service, you add to your footprint. For example, you might post a picture or opinion to social media; or use Google to search for something; or you might simply be using a travel card. And your friends, family and colleagues contribute to your footprint too – every time they connect with you online.

So yes, you have a digital footprint. But you may not know what it looks like, how to manage it, or how important it is not to overshare.

Why is it important to manage my footprint?

Digital footprints are a hunting ground for cybercriminals, thieves, and stalkers. When they discover an oversharer online, they’re like bees to honey! They like nothing more than using your information for their own gain and may use it to extort money from you or steal your identity.

That doesn’t mean you have to stop sharing with the people you choose to connect with, but it does mean you should do so safely and understand the risks when you do.

How can I manage my footprint?

First, find your trail online with a simple search – have a look at TechJunkie’s guidance to help you get started.

Secondly, be aware of what your digital footprint is made up of and think carefully about what you’re doing when adding to it. Don’t overshare – make sure you configure your app settings to something you’re comfortable with to safeguard yourself.

Here are some other things you might like to consider:

  • Do you really need to enter genuine information in every field if there’s no legal requirement to do so? Make up your birthdate or enter something random when asked to set up answers to secret questions – for example when asked for your ‘favourite pet’, enter ‘Eiffel Tower’.
  • Are there settings you can adjust to make your information more private? Each social media channel and platform has its own privacy settings. See: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, and LinkedIn.
  • Is your Instagram post suitable for your Facebook friends group? Channels are becoming more interconnected, with platforms now offering you the option of sharing posts between accounts, for example you could share your Instagram post to your Twitter account. While this is a great time saver, don’t forget that your account audiences and settings on each platform may be different.
  • Is this content something you wouldn’t mind your employer or a future employer seeing? There’s nothing wrong with making posts public if you want them to be, but if the answer to this question is ‘no’, then don’t forget to protect your post with private settings – or better yet, consider whether you should post it at all.

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