Your Digital Footprint: What Is It and Why Does It Matter?

General

At a basic level, your digital footprint is a record of your activity online. It shows you where you’ve been on the internet, the data you’ve left behind, and where you’re going next. The internet makes accessing and sharing your personal information pretty easy, which is why it’s important to understand your digital footprint. Leaving a positive digital footprint can protect not only your data, but also your reputation and your future opportunities. So, what is your digital footprint and why does it matter?

Digital Footprint

Passive vs Active

There are two types of digital footprints: passive and active.

Active digital footprints are deliberate. For example, maybe you’ve shared information by posting on your social media, leaving an online review, uploading a video, or subscribing to email newsletters. All of these actions are done intentionally and with your knowledge, helping to grow your digital footprint.

On the other hand, a passive digital footprint is any data you leave behind without even realising it. This happens when websites install cookies on your device, apps collect your data without your permission, or anything is saved in your browser history. Although passive digital footprints are inevitable, you can lessen them by deleting old accounts and using privacy settings.

It’s possible that you have hundreds of items in your digital footprint. Without meaning to, there are some things that you do online which may increase the size of your digital footprint. This includes online shopping, registering for newsletters, using mobile banking apps, buying or selling stocks, using apps to track workouts, or reposting articles you’ve read. There are plenty of ways you can increase your digital footprint. However, there are also several ways you can control your digital footprint in order to protect your personal data.

Here are our top tips for protecting your digital footprint.

1 Check your privacy settings

Your privacy settings help you to decide whether or not you give consent for your personal information or data to be collected and used. When using social media accounts, online services, and browsers, always choose privacy settings that you are comfortable with.

2 Clean up your accounts

If you have old social media accounts you don’t use anymore, or are subscribed to newsletter you no longer read, it’s time to delete and unsubscribe. Likewise, if you have posts or photos you don’t want anyone to see or don’t show you in the best light, consider taking them down. Not only does this reduce your digital footprint, but it helps to protect you in the future.

3 Think before you post

Did you know that something you post or share in the spur of the moment can remain online for years? Before you decide to share something, ask yourself whether it’s worth it. Anything from an angry post to your travel plans, oversharing on social media can breach your privacy. Remember, if you do post something online, make sure it’s positive.

4 Update your software

Hackers look for weaknesses in outdated software to easily access private information. Regularly updating software and programs protects you from these hackers by fixing or removing bugs in the system.

5 Protect your information

This sounds obvious, but it’s so important. You should always use strong passwords, change them regularly, and never share them with anyone. Likewise, when using a public network of Wi-Fi connection, don’t enter your personal data. Transmitting sensitive data across public Wi-Fi networks puts you at risk of sending your information to unknown sources, such as hackers.

Being mindful of your online activities

We don’t want you to panic! There are many positives about having a digital footprint, but it’s important to keep these things in mind to protect your personal information and better your digital footprint. In today’s digital world, it is so easy to access information on any individual or organisation, which is why you should make sure your digital footprint is positive.

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