The internet has been around for quite a while, and we’ve put much of our data on it. Whether it was posting ‘cringy’ photos on Facebook in 2012, or making one too many emails to register for something we don’t even remember anymore. All of our data that exists on the internet combines to become our digital footprint. It’s essentially what we leave behind.
These accounts and profiles might be so old that they may not have any significance now, and may not even reflect your current goals and personality. However, if someone were to search for you online, they would have access to all this data. The first thought that may come to your mind would be, “but it’s all harmless, how does it make a difference?” and that’s fair. To a certain extent, as harmless teenagers, we may not have put up anything that could actively or directly affect us. But look at it from an employer’s perspective, or your future partner. In fact, the US Consulate recently issued a notice saying they will issue citizens visas only after doing a background check online. So, look at it from a visa officer’s perspective. You never know what your digital footprint could do to your future. Therefore, for safety purposes, or just to keep a track of everything you have online, it is best to clean up your digital footprint. Here are a few ways you can do that.
Auditing your accounts is the first and most important step, it is likely that you’ve created various accounts online over time, for different purposes, it could be for online shopping, gaming, registrations, social media, or anything. It is best to keep track of all these accounts and make a list to manage. You can look through popular websites and work your way through to find all your accounts.
The next step is deleting and deactivating the accounts that are no longer in need or in use. If you don’t remember usernames and passwords, you can look through your email inboxes and most probably get the information.
Once you’ve done this, do a simple google search with your name, and see what shows up. If there are any photos or details that you aren’t comfortable being online anymore, there are a few ways to removing photos from Google, which you can access through the help center.
Managing your privacy settings is the next step. Being in control of what people see of you online, and who these people are, is a very important thing. Make sure that your security and privacy settings are updated on all websites so that it is you who decides how easily people find your information online.
In the end, remember that it is also important to embrace your digital identity and curate your online presence the way you want. Having a healthy digital footprint helps in online networking opportunities and as discussed before, it also helps in terms of future employment, visas, and perhaps even your relationships.