A “digital footprint” is the mark that a person leaves behind when using the Internet. The websites you visit, people you follow, content you like, share or post and comments you make all add to your digital footprint and shape your reputation.
In today’s world, your online reputation has a significant impact on your career. Up to 70% of employers will likely screen applicants according to their digital footprint. What’s more, employees who have privileged access to an organisation’s sites, sensitive data or assets need to be vigilant of their digital trace as it can be valuable for cybercriminals and other malicious actors.
What follows are five effective ways to start improving your digital footprint and minimising data misuse.
Find out what information is available to the public
Search yourself to find out what information is available to the public. A quick Google search will display all the public profiles, images, videos, blogs and other type of content linked to your name. If there is something that should remain private, make sure to change your account’s privacy settings. Or, if there’s content that makes you feel uncomfortable, contact the webmaster or post owner and request for it to be taken down.
Post positively online
Before sharing something publicly online, carefully think whether you wish for that photo, blog, tweet or video to be visible to your employer, colleagues, business partners or even loved ones. Remember, once it is online, it’s difficult to erase.
Focus on sharing content that highlights your skills, interests and achievements. Depending on the social network or digital platform you may be using, you can upload an article or opinion piece approaching an area of your expertise, or share a photo of an important conference you attended.
Review your privacy settings
Knowing who can see the information you share on the websites you use is crucial. Most social networks allow its users to manage the content they share – whether it is with friends and followers, or with the wider public – through their privacy settings. However, those settings are constantly updated, which can expose your data without your explicit consent.
Visit privacy settings pages frequently to review what your profile looks like. Do this especially, after a software update.
Protect your passwords
Recent reports reveal that about 81% of company data breaches are caused by poor passwords and 44% of individuals re-use passwords. A strong password should be a mix of letters, numbers and special characters. It’s recommended to change passwords constantly and not to re-use the same password for multiple accounts, as this can leave you vulnerable to hacking attacks.
Opt out of data collecting sites
Unbeknownst to many users of the Internet, certain companies collect, analyse and sell their data. Consequently, your personal information may be used by HR companies to run background screenings or by people search sites that provide an extensive background profile of you – all without your informed consent.
To try to remove yourself from an information collecting site, you can contact them individually and, in some cases, fill in an opt out form. You can also consult guides listing opt-out procedures and try out automated data removal tools by companies such as Incogni.
Nowadays, your digital footprint is closely tied to your reputation, which can have a detrimental impact in your professional life. Googling yourself, posting positively online, reviewing your privacy settings, protecting your passwords and opting out information collecting sites are effective strategies to build a positive digital footprint and minimise data misuse.