Reputation Defenders

What is a digital footprint?

What is a digital footprint?
Richard Doan

5 min

read

What is a digital footprint?

Your digital footprint is the trail left by your online activities. It includes everything from the websites you visit the searches you conduct.

What is your digital footprint?

Your digital footprints include everything from pictures, and social media posts, to passwords, demographic data, web browsing history, and IP addresses. They also include any personal information that may be linked to your identity.

A big chunk of your digital footprint comprises publicly available things, but another huge chunk is not. And releasing any of these pieces of your digital footprint can damage your online reputation.

How to track your digital footprint

Examples of digital footprints include the following:

  • What web browsers are you using (Google Chrome, Apple Safari, Mozilla Firefox, etc.)
  • Your screen resolution
  • Your IP address
  • What type of computer you're working from
  • Your operating system
  • and more

Active vs. passive digital footprints

There are two main categories of digital footprints: active (or "active") and passive (or "passive)

Active

A footprint is any data trail left by someone who has been online. It could be anything from leaving comments on social media sites to posting photos on Instagram.

  • You are sending someone an e-mail (you want them to see it).
  • Publishing a blog
  • Posting on social networking sites (e.g., LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram) - a tweet, Facebook status, and an Instagram post
  • Subscribing to e-mail or text updates

Passive

An active footprint is any trace created intentionally by someone, such as:

  • Apps and sites that use geolocations to pinpoint where someone is at any given time
  • Companies compile and analyze personal data when browsing through websites to profile you and deliver personalized ads.

Digital footprints are sometimes negative. If you leave a good one behind, you can improve your reputation and increase your chances for future opportunities.

What is your digital footprint used for?

There are many reasons why we should care about the way our digital footprints represent us. Our online presence could cause us harm if not managed properly. For example, search results for our names or the name of our company could be considered a part of our digital footprint.

You've probably received e-mails from people who found your e-mail using their online footprints.

We will focus on the latter and how your digital footprints are routinely considered when applying for jobs, evaluating companies' values, and considering mortgages and loans.

According to research conducted by CareerBuilder, 77 percent of potential employers use search engine tools like Google to screen their job applicants, and 35 percent of these employers admitted that they rejected an applicant because of something they discovered during a search.

What are the Red Flags in Your Digital Footprint?

As for what types of content companies dislike most when they look at an applicant's online profile and experience, having any of the following can turn off up to 85 percent of hiring managers and human resources professionals:

  • References to illegal drug use
  • Documented alcohol consumption
  • References to weapons
  • Usage of profanity
  • Even if you're not good at writing, spell checkers
  • Mugshots

It would be helpful to share stories where inappropriate and unprofessional actions on social networks resulted in an employee's termination. There are too many to count!

We're always leaving a digital trail behind us. It may influence our future career prospects.

How to protect your digital footprint?

If you're looking to protect your online reputation, we can ensure that our digital footprints don't reveal any more personal details than we want them to by following these steps:

Research your name on Google

We first need to determine what information is circulating online, so we know where to focus our efforts. Most individuals would be shocked at the number of personal details they've shared online—for example, a list of their residential addresses and telephone numbers, even the most recent ones.

If you're not comfortable with something, you can set up an alert so that you know when it comes up again.

Make sure that your professional and personal e-mails are separate from each other.

We should be just as careful when managing our online identities as our financial assets. Separating our personal and professional lives helps us maintain a certain level of privacy.

To prevent spam bots from sending out mass e-mail campaigns, use a catch-all e-mail.

You can also make it harder for spammers by having two or three different e-mail accounts. For example, you might have an account called "work," where you send important work correspondence; another account called "personal," where you keep personal e-mails such as friends, family, and so forth; and yet another account called "spamtrap," where you store spam messages. Of course, you should avoid giving out your main e-mail address (the "work" address) unless you're expecting a legitimate message. And remember that if someone does manage to get hold of your main e-mail account, they'll probably have access to all your other ones too!

Whether hiring committees eventually discover your social media accounts is another matter, but adding additional e-mail addresses adds another obstacle for them to overcome.

You should set up your own personal Facebook account for yourself.

Creating privacy settings and controlling the individuals who can view your social media feeds is important for establishing clear lines between private and public spheres. Still, there are ways to go beyond these basics.

There are two important caveats to this rule.

  1. First, you must know each platform's exact settings to take full advantage of them.
  2. Second, you must realize that these settings aren't foolproof, as some court rulings have found that confidential material is "subject to discovery" if relevant.

Be careful when using the Internet, and don't share too much personal information online.

The Internet has an extremely long memory, so only publish articles that align with the image you wish for your friends, colleagues, and anyone else reading them. Don't publish anything that could damage your reputation.

What are the benefits of having a good digital footprint?

A digital profile is a big part of your brand. You must ensure your digital profile accurately reflects who you are and what your business stands for.

A good digital footprint can help you achieve these business goals:

  • You're more likely to be trusted by people, which leads to better growth opportunities for your business.
  • Higher revenues: Brands run by people with great reputations online tend to sell more products than brands run by less reputable individuals.
  • Low risk: You don't want to take any risks. So if your digital footprints are bad, they can be hard to overcome.
  • Gentle approach: If you've shown yourself to be a positive community member, you can recover from an incident faster than someone with an online reputation for negativity.

It's important to be aware of the reach of the web and its impact in every sector and sphere. Keeping a positive digital footprint and avoiding closing any doors to yourself because of reckless online activity is important.

Updated

November 18, 2022

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