Three Tips For Managing Your Digital Footprint

October 10, 2023 | Blog

Whether you know it or not, you are all over the internet. While browsing, we leave a trail. While commenting on social media threads or review sites, we leave a trail. And, while shopping, we leave a trail.


It makes sense, especially since statistics indicate the average American has 7 social media accounts, spends nearly seven hours online every day and spends more than $5,000 shopping online each year. All of that activity helps shape our digital footprint. 


What exactly is a digital footprint, beyond evidence that you’ve been online? It’s a collection of data linked to users and their activity. That collection includes active output by users, like when a user leaves a comment or shares content on social media sites. And, it also includes passive input, like when websites use cookies. 


Sometimes the information contained in a user’s digital footprint can be sold or used to inform advertising tactics, could be compromised as part of a data breach, or could impact a user’s reputation — since information shared publicly largely remains that way online, without an expiration date. 


In fact, 70% of employers report actively reviewing a job applicant’s social media as part of the employment screening process. And, according to a CareerBuilder survey, nearly 20% of employees have lost a job due to their social media posts. 


So, how do you manage your digital footprint to protect against the pitfalls that might come with it? Here are three tips.


Conduct an audit. The first step in managing your digital footprint, to improve online safety, is to understand what’s out there. Conduct an audit by searching your name, reviewing your social media accounts and accounts on which you may have commented as part of a heated debate or disgruntled customer experience. If you haven’t searched your own name before, you might be surprised by what comes up — including images. Follow your own trail and see what you find.


Make adjustments. Once you have a better understanding of what your digital footprint looks like, make adjustments to protect yourself moving forward. That may mean changing privacy settings on social media accounts to manage who sees your content or who is able to tag you in content, deleting unused accounts, or even setting up Google Alerts to monitor for future online mentions. If, during the audit process, you discovered unsavory comments you shared but would now like to remove, see if it’s possible to delete them. The same goes for images. 


Maintenance. As a good practice, make sure to clear your cache, browsing history and cookies on a regular basis. And moving forward, avoid accepting cookies from websites. For optimal online security, avoid using public WiFi networks and make sure all passwords are strong — even if it means using a random password generator. When logging in to new sites, create unique logins rather than using a Facebook or Google option, to minimize the exposure of your data and expansion of your digital footprint. And, remember that what you put out there online generally sticks. So make sure it’s worth it before sharing.


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