What is a digital footprint, the information about a particular person that exists on the internet as a result of their online activity? It is very important that you think carefully before you post. This could result in future loss of employment, damage to one’s character and rejection for future employment, loss of business, etc. It could be seen as fun and games to write anything you please, however, there could be repercussions in the long run. “Be wise in your presence online”, professionalism, proper attire, good communication skills, etc. “Think before you post it could cost you dearly”. Your presence online is your brand identity and should represent well. In this article, we will examine the definition, types of digital footprints, privacy issues, effects on the workforce, and building a positive digital footprint.
1) Definition of Digital Footprint
Simply stated, a digital footprint is a trail an individual leaves behind when one goes on the internet. Your activity on social media platforms, website, browsing history, online subscriptions, photos and videos uploaded, anything that is linked to your name and email address. Digital natives frequently put their names on everything online so their footprints are very extensive.
In considerations, one can decide what personal information they share by tweaking what is made public. There are third-party tools that exist that are available to manage parts of one’s digital footprints that are not known to an individual.
It is more imperative that adults guide the younger generations who have grown up in a social and digital environment to be cognizant of what they are posting, which could affect their future is the most critical step. If these youngsters are not properly motivated very little direction will be compelling for them to follow.
2) Privacy Issues
Digital footprints are the content and data on data collected impacts internet privacy, trust, security, digital reputation, and recommendation. With the proliferation of the digital world the ownership and rights concerning data becoming increasingly relevant to all aspects of life. Digital footprints are a privacy concern, generally speaking because they are traceable actions, contributions, and ideas shared by users. It can be tracked and can allow internet users to learn about human dos and don’ts.
Various stakeholders use the internet footprints for several reasons; including cyber-vetting, where interviewers could research applicants based on their online activities. Internet footprints are also used by law enforcement agencies to provide information unavailable otherwise due to a lack of probable cause. Marketers use digital footprints to learn about potential clients’ interests in particular products/services.
3) Effects on Workforce
The norm for recruiters is to evaluate potential applicants by their digital footprint through their interaction on social media due to its reduced cost and ease of access. This assists the employer in gaining insights into the candidate by assessing communication skills, use of inappropriate language, or use drugs or alcohol are rated lower. In contrast, a candidate with a professional or family-oriented social media presence receives higher ratings. A candidate’s digital footprint to determine if a candidate is a good cultural fit for their organization. Suppose a candidate upholds an organization’s values or shows existing passion for its mission. In that case, the candidate is more likely to integrate within the organization and could accomplish more than the average person. Although these assessments are known not to be accurate predictors of performance or turnover rates, employers still use digital footprints to evaluate their applicants. Thus, job seekers prefer to create a social media presence that would be viewed positively from a professional point of view.
4) Types of Digital Footprints
Passive digital footprint is created when data is collected without the owner knowing occurs by tracking an IP address:
- Occurs by tracking an IP address
- Date of creation
- Origin of activity
- Includes your search history
- The footprint is later being analyzed.
- In an offline environment, administrators can access and view the machine’s actions without seeing who performed them.
Active digital footprints can also be stored in a variety of ways depending on the situation. A footprint can be stored by a user being logged into a site when making a post or change, with the registered name being connected to the edit in an online environment. In an offline environment, a footprint may be stored in files when the owner of the computer uses a keylogger. Logs can show the actions performed on the machine and who performed them. One feature of the keylogger monitors the clipboard for any changes. Though, this may be problematic if the user intends to copy passwords or take screenshots of sensitive information, which is then logged.
5) Building a Positive Digital Footprint
Being active on many different social media platform will spread your exposure. Creativity, social media allow you to showcase this attribute.
- Friendly and social
- Be authentic
The negative impact of a digital footprint could be daunting and make one flee from social media to not have a digital footprint at all, yet this can be beneficial if these are considered carefully and not carelessly. Experts suggest people not to delete their accounts in an attempt to go off the map; instead, experts advise doing the following actions to create an appealing digital footprint:
- Research yourself: By doing this, one can see what type of information follows them and is a part of their digital footprint.
- Think before posting: This will allow for time to consider whether this should be a part of one’s digital footprint. Sources say that those who do not consider all possible implications of what they post on the internet may be negatively affected when looking for employment.
- Highlight attractive traits and qualities: Using the Internet and social media outlets to highlight one’s greatest attributes and qualities will allow the person to be seen positively. Since it is already known that digital footprints are evaluated by potential job employers and universities in the application process, then applicants should use that to their benefit and make them look attractive.
Your digital footprint is your brand identity in a global world that is long-lasting. Everything you do on the internet is traceable and can not be destroyed. Your future depends on it and requires careful actions on the part of the user on the worldwide web. Professionalism and good friendly manners are required. Your brand is a marketing tool so use it well and make improvements to your digital life is a continuous lifelong goal. Think before you post and search histories are archived.
Author: Tricia Murray, sales and marketing professional with an MBA, over 18 years of accumulative experience, now embarking on the futurist path of digital marketing, one certification under her portfolio, and pursuing four others with IIDM.