What is a Digital Footprint?
A digital footprint is a record of your online activity. Your digital footprint can show where you have been on the internet and all of the data that you have left behind. When you share something online, or when websites and applications track your activity, your digital footprint grows. Your “active digital footprint” includes the data that you deliberately submit online, such as emails. Emails are often saved by the recipient and will likely remain online for many years, expanding your digital footprint. Your “passive digital footprint” includes the data trail you leave when you visit websites with web servers that log your IP address, or when your search history is saved by your search engine. If you are seeking ways to expand your digital footprint, frequently posting blogs, social media updates, and interacting with social media posts increase your digital footprint, since the data is also saved on the respective servers. If you are trying to manage and/or minimize your digital footprint, it is important to consider examples of the data that can be a part of your digital footprint:
Financial data. Opening a credit card account, buying/selling stocks, mobile banking application, subscriptions to financial publications and blogs.
Shopping data. Downloading and using shopping applications, making purchases online, creating accounts, signing up for coupons, registering for newsletters.
Reading and news data. Viewing articles on a news application, subscribing to an online news source, signing up for a publication’s newsletter, reposting articles.
Health and fitness data. Receiving health care, using applications that track your movements and activities, subscribing to a health and fitness blog, registering with a gym.
Social data. Logging into websites with your social media credentials, connecting with friends and colleagues, using social media on your computer and devices, sharing data with your connections, joining a dating application or website.
Tips for managing and/or minimizing your digital footprint include:
- Limit the types of data you share. Before you fill out an online form or divulge personal information, evaluate whether or not it is worth the risk.
- Avoid unsafe websites. Only use secure websites with URLs that begin with HTTPS.
- Avoid public Wi-Fi. If you must use public Wi-Fi, do not transmit sensitive information.
- Delete old accounts. Deleting old accounts and unsubscribing from newsletters that you no longer are interested in will help you to reduce your digital footprint.
- Review medical records. Be certain that everything in your medical records looks accurate.
- Google yourself. Take an inventory of how you appear in an internet search so that you know what people encounter when they are looking into you.
- Do not login to websites and applications through social media applications. Logging in to third-party applications through social media loosens your control over your social media content and your digital footprint.
- Use identity protection services. If your information and data is compromised, identity protection services offer full remediation services.
- Do not overshare. Think before you post pictures and information, as they can be used against you.
- Update software. Always keep software up to date with the latest security patches.
- Never share passwords. Keep them safe and never share them.
- Act fast after a data breach. If your information and data is compromised, take immediate action. Change the password on the compromised website and also change passwords on other websites that are using the same password.