What is a “Digital footprint”?

Your digital footprint is a record of everything you do online, like the websites you visit and what you post on social media. It’s important to be careful because this information can be seen by companies, advertisers, and even the government.

Examples of a digital footprint

Many pieces of information can be considered part of your digital footprint as it encompasses everything you do online. Here are some of the most prevalent examples of a digital footprint:

  • Social media posts and comments on platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.
  • Online searches made through search engines like Google, Bing or DuckDuckGo.
  • Online purchases, including purchased items and payment methods used.
  • Emails, instant messages, and chat logs stored online.
  • Location data, such as GPS coordinates and Wi-Fi access points.
  • Visits to websites while using the internet.

Why is your digital footprint important?

A digital footprint is important because it can be a lasting record of your online activities, including your interests, personal views, and preferences. It can be used to make employment, housing, and credit lending decisions and can also be a pig online privacy concern.  

Examples of how a digital footprint can pose privacy and security concerns include:

  • Identity theft. Personal information such as full name, date of birth, address, and Social Security number can be used to steal your identity.
  • Discrimination. Information such as your religion, political beliefs, or health conditions could be used to discriminate against you in areas such as employment or housing.
  • Cyberstalking or cyberbullying. Your digital footprint can be used to track your online activities and physical location, potentially putting you at risk of stalking and physical harm.
  • Data breaches. Personal information stored online can be vulnerable to data breaches, where hackers gain access to sensitive information.
  • Reputation damage. Posts or comments made on social media can be taken out of context or used to damage your reputation.
  • Marketing and advertising. Companies can use your digital footprint to target you with personalized ads, which may be invasive or even offensive.

How does a digital footprint get created?

A digital footprint is created each time you use the internet. This includes posting on social media, sending emails and messages, using search engines like Google or Bing, making online purchases, using location-based services, and sharing your personal information online. 

How to check your digital footprint?

Here are a few steps to check your digital footprint:

  • Google yourself: Type your name into a search engine and see what comes up. This can give you an idea of the information that is readily available about you online.
  • Check your social media profiles: Review your privacy settings on social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram to see what information is visible to the public.
  • Search for your email addresses: Type in the email addresses you use frequently to see what information or accounts are associated with them.
  • Search for your username: If you use the same username across different platforms, you can search for it to see what information is associated with it.
  • Use privacy tools: There are tools available online, such as online privacy checkers, that can help you see what information is publicly available about you.

It’s important to regularly check your digital footprint to ensure that your personal information is secure and that you have control over what is visible to others.

How to delete your digital footprint?

Deleting your digital footprint can be challenging, as once information is online, it can be difficult to remove entirely. However, here are a few steps that can help you reduce your digital footprint:

Limit online activities: Reduce the amount of personal information you share online by limiting the number of websites you visit, the amount of time you spend on social media, and the information you share in online forums.

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