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Online Privacy and Your Digital Footprint

How is your digital footprint created?

TechTerms explains that the term digital footprint refers to:

"A digital footprint is a trail of data you create while using the Internet. It includes the websites you visit, emails you send, and information you submit to online services."

"An active digital footprint includes data that you intentionally submit online. Sending an email contributes to your active digital footprint, since you expect the data be seen and/or saved by another person. The more email you send, the more your digital footprint grows. Since most people save their email online, the messages you send can easily remain online for several years or more.

Publishing a blog and posting social media updates are another popular ways to expand your digital footprint. Every tweet you post on Twitter, every status update you publish on Facebook, and every photo you share on Instagram contributes to your digital footprint. The more you spend time on social networking websites, the larger your digital footprint will be. Even "liking" a page or a Facebook post adds to your digital footprint, since the data is saved on Facebook's servers.

Everyone who uses the Internet has a digital footprint, so it is not something to be worried about. However, it is wise to consider what trail of data you are leaving behind. For example, remembering your digital footprint may prevent you from sending a scathing email, since the message might remain online forever. It may also lead you to be more discerning in what you publish on social media websites. While you can often delete content from social media sites, once digital data has been shared online, there is no guarantee you will ever be able to remove it from the Internet."

Check your digital footprint

How much information about you is already on the internet?

Check:

- Use Google and at least one other search engine to search variations on your name (as lastname firstname as well as the usual order, or using initials, etc.)

- Search yourself on FaceBook, Instagram, Snapchat, Twitter, etc. to find out what other people have posted about you publicly, and also to check whether you have any old, unused accounts on those applications (if you do, delete them if you can).

Tools for managing your digital footprint

The Internet Society has a series of video modules to help you uncover your current digital footprint and to manage it.

Your digital footprint is your social media resume

chart of what to include in a social media resume (and what not to include)