Digital Footprints Are Privacy Busters

Digital Footprints Are Privacy Busters
By Kym Gordon Moore

Did you know that unlike footprints in the sand that can be washed away with the tide, your digital footprint is here to stay forever? Just because you have the freedom to voice your opinions or post anything you wish to online, it doesn’t mean that you have to or should. At the click of your mouse or keypad, the Internet can instantly give us a vast amount of information we would never be able to digest, which could be true or false.

Cyber shadowing, digital shadowing or digital footprints as we commonly know it, is data created when you perform any action over the Internet or through your mobile devices. Your activity can be tracked to see what site or link you came from before you arrived at a particular website, the length of your retention and where you go afterwards. This digital tracking system can collect data wherever you left a trail, as you traveled on the World Wide Web. Data that is collected about you is typically used by companies for sales opportunities, analytics or marketing communication purposes. On the other hand, we are familiar with the antics hackers impose on our online experience that creates much aggravation.

When volunteering to create a user ID through which you share your information with others, this process is known as active digital footprints. When data is collected about you without activation on your part, this is known as passive digital footprints. Admission counselors, college administrators, hiring managers, current and potential employers, investigators, recruiters and law enforcement officials are scanning the internet for any type of information they can find out about you, whether it’s good or not. Often this type of scanning is part of your background check, or if you’re suspected of or associated with any form of criminal activity.

You will quickly discover that regarding “personal autonomy of your privacy,” this is a narrowly defined and generalized term. There may be information that you can keep from the public, but access to this information, if posted online directly by you or someone else could be accessed legally or not. Your footprint has already been established.

What you share with friends through social media sites or on forums can be viewed by people you don’t know. A classic example is when you post any type of information on a friend’s page, you must be mindful that they are not the only ones reading it. Their friends or followers not connected to you now have personal access to you and your information.

Inevitably, it doesn’t matter what type of information you exchange in cyberspace, it’s probably not as private as you may think. Set up alerts to have emails sent to you that will let you know when your name is flagged up online. Regardless of how careful you are, your information will be stored somewhere in cyberspace and cannot be erased no matter how much you try to get rid of it. You still have to remain vigilant and digitally savvy. Exercise common sense to avoid getting trapped by negative digital trails that could come back to haunt you.

Kym Gordon Moore, author of “Diversities of Gifts: Same Spirit” and “Wings of the Wind: A Cornucopia of Poetry” is an award winning poet, author, speaker, philanthropist, certified email marketing specialist and an authority in brand marketing and marketing communications. She is co-founder of Favorite Things for a CAUSE and was selected as one of the 2012, 2013 and 2014 U.S. World Book Night Volunteer Book Givers.

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