“I can delete it, don’t worry!” Kids today frequently say this in regards to what they do online. The reality is that we live in a world of data collection and this trend is not going away. Data collection can be as benign as keeping the history of the websites you visit or as invasive as inserting bias into your search results based on your previous visits and searches. Everyone has a digital footprint. The Oxford Dictionary defines a digital footprint as the information about a particular person that exists on the Internet as a result of their online activity. As the world changes and technology becomes more prevailing throughout our society, everyone should be aware of their digital footprint.
So why should you care? Looking at social media and doing a Google search have become very common with universities, employers, and many others. Digital footprints are used to make decisions about you, so how do you protect yourself?
1. Don’t overshare – Use privacy settings to control who see what on your social media. An inappropriate comment from a “friend” can degrade your positive footprint.
2. What goes online stays online – Remember that even after you may delete something, that data still lives somewhere. There is always data that is left behind that could reflect upon you in a negative way.
3. Think before you post – Before you post that picture or comment, think if you would want your boss or that university you hope to attend or your 90-year-old grandmother to see it.
Use your digital footprint as a positive reflection of yourself. Know that others are watching what you do online, so use this to your advantage and make wise choices as to how others will form their impressions about you.