In the age of technology, how can we manage our digital footprint? What is a digital footprint? Is the internet forever?
Well, a digital footprint isn’t a physical outline of your footprint on the ground of the digital world. A digital footprint is something everyone leaves behind with every interaction, text typed, site viewed, every profile made, etc. This bread crumb trail gives people, websites, and apps the ability to view and use your information.
In a sense, the internet is forever, but you can clean up your trail to an extent.
There are a few ways to minimize this impact. The first is the ‘cookies’ you accept on every website can be easily cleared. What those ‘cookies’ do is track your time spent on the page and any clicks you make on that page. They then use this information to rebuild their websites or to even create personalized ads that you may see frequently. How can you combat this? One way is to clear your cookies. To do this, go to your web browser’s settings, go to any form of security and privacy section and select ‘clear cookies’. This removes the tracking ability those websites have and protects you online.
Next, try Googling yourself. See what comes up, and if anything is extremely wrong or too personal, you can contact Google support and request the information to be taken down. It’s always good to Google yourself once in a while to see what people see about your online presence. This not only will give future employers a glimpse at your online activities (if they decide to Google you), but it also gives you a chance to make sure your sensitive information isn’t being spread about on the surface level of the online world.
You can even unsubscribe yourself from newsletters you receive via email. The best way is to sift through your email every now and then. If you use a third party to unsubscribe, such as Unroll Me, Unsubscriber, and Clean Email, it’s not only contributing to your digital footprint, but it’s also allowing those third parties to potentially have access to your email and they can use that data.
Your digital footprint isn’t just those pesky subscriptions or cookies, they’re also the algorithms on social media. You can actively curate your feed, and even that like-to-dislike ratio is information that app developers use to figure out who ‘you’ are! By doing this, you are allowing sites to track everything from your searches to your likes or retweets or even what you look at the most. Most, if not all, of your social media interactions, are monitored and help build your digital footprint. Be mindful of what you post, what information is out there about you, and what you subscribe to!
If you want more information on digital footprints, check out our Social Media Literacy Curriculum! We dive into the lessons and strategies behind building a positive personal brand, protecting your privacy, and engaging online. If you’re a student, share the curriculum with your school or district to bring more digital citizenship education and empowerment to you and your peers!
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