What we are going to discuss in this article is going to be about the digital footprint.
What is a digital footprint?
Just as we lead our lives in the world, we contribute bit by bit every day in creating an identity for ourselves. We leave trails of places we have visited, people we have met, and opportunities we have utilized, and so on.
Similarly, we leave trails online. Of websites we have visited, the information we have entered, details we have shared. We realize little but every little action we take online is stored there forever. Yes, we can delete it but it is almost impossible to delete the data completely from the internet.
It is also sometimes referred to as the digital shadow.
All of this might seem very scary but it isn’t necessarily a bad thing altogether (more of which we will read in this article.)
We leave our digital footprints in mostly two ways-
Actively and passively.
Active footprints, as the name suggests, are what we give out information actively. Like our passwords, bank details for the transaction, log-in ids, online forum information, etc.
Passive digital footprints are the ones we leave behind unintentionally. Like when we visit a website, they can know our IP address which can further give out our exact location, and the cookies that websites offer can target us for advertisements even when we don’t want them to.
So, how does this digital footprint work?
To have a better understanding of how we leave a trail as we go on using the internet, we will state here a few examples of the same.
All of this information entered online is what forms an online identity for oneself.
- Typing in your preferences
- Giving out your location and address for delivery
- Subscribing to their newsletters
- Trading stocks
- Opening an account
- Online transactions
- Like, interests and disinterests
- Political preferences
- Medical, banking, and entertainment preferences
- Entering your personal information on dating sites, matrimonial sites, and uploading pictures on same.
And, so on. But, you get the idea of what all constitutes your digital footprint and hence, an online identity. This is why it is important to think twice before putting out any information on the internet.
The saying stands correct- ‘The Internet never forgets.’
Why digital footprint is not all that bad-
Like you need an identity in real life for people to recognize you. You need an online identity to let people find and know you.
Often the hiring managers track down your digital footprint to understand if you are the right fit for the position or not. So, if you are cautious of what you put out on the internet, it will be an added advantage.
Even colleges check their prospective candidates’ online profiles before they admit them. It is like their own personal verification method.
Okay, all nice things aside.
Why do you need to be super careful when using the internet?
Words take little to get misinterpreted. They are often taken out of context and blown out of proportion ending in creating trouble for the one who put it out.
So, when it comes to using social media, you need to be extra careful with your words.
Cybercriminals are everywhere on the internet on a lookout and they are waiting for you to make a mistake.
The next natural question will be, but how to make sure we don’t make a mistake? What are the things we need to take care of?
Things to be mindful of while using the internet-
- Track what all information is there on the internet about you- Check by searching your names on the search engines and track down the information it has of you- negative and positive.
Setting up Google alerts is a good idea for this.
- Reduce the amount of data you share- Just do not go on a rampage to fill out forms just because somebody offers a discount you don’t even need. Be mindful when you give out your email addresses, phone numbers, etc.
It will help in eventually narrowing down your digital footprint.
- Beware of the privacy settings on your account- Today, social media handles provide you with advanced privacy setting options. You can limit the people who watch your stories, posts, pictures, etc.
- Check if the website you are visiting is secure- Always make sure the website you are on has the URL starting with https:// and not http://. Here, s refers to safety. Most importantly, never, absolutely never conduct financial transactions on the website without security certification. This is one of the mistakes the cybercriminals are waiting for you to make.
- Delete old accounts- Cut down unnecessary details on the internet about yourself. If you no longer use a social media handle, delete it. If you no longer read that newsletter, unsubscribe and stop entering it into your email box.
- Use updated software- New software comes with extra security and cyber protection. Make sure you are always using the latest one.
Yes, it is difficult to be mindful of every step you take while you are on the internet but you must make it a habit to have a general sense of awareness that you are always being tracked and stored. This will help you take a path that is less likely to leave you in trouble.
Building a digital footprint can be a longer journey than you expect. Keep a company, we suggest. We don’t mind being one!
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