What is a digital footprint?

A digital footprint is all of the information online about a person either posted by that person or others, intentionally or unintentionally. Filling out a form, leaving a blog comment, updating your status, checking into a location, emailing or IMing a friend, posting a photo, visiting a website, using a search engine… everything you do online leaves a trail. This trail is your digital footprint.

Understanding how to manage your online reputation or “digital footprint” is a challenging process. To complicate matters further, it’s not just your own online actions you need to worry about—what others say and post about you also contributes to your digital footprint.

“Today our digital footprint is our new first impression, and it starts taking shape the minute we go online.”  – Diana Graber, CyberWise

Managing your digital footprint

Do you know what your digital footprint says about you? Below are two easy steps to help you identify whether or not your online “first impression” aligns with how you want others to see you now and in the future.

Google yourself.
Google yourself by typing your full name into Google’s search box. Keep in mind people might search for you in many different ways.
Example: Jane Doe, janedoe@anymail.com, Jane Doe, teacher, etc.

Questions to ask yourself: Were there any surprises? Were you happy with the search results? Was there anything you wish you could change?

Use Google Alerts to monitor what others are saying about you.
You can sign up for Google Alerts to receive email updates of the latest relevant Google results (web, news, etc.) about you by simply visiting the site and entering your name. You can set the frequency of updates to “as-it-happens,” “once a day,” or “once a week.”

Tips to keep your digital footprint safe

  1. Always remember to log off when you have finished with an online service.
  2. Do not enter your password on a website using free public Wi-Fi. Hackers on the network can snoop on what you’re doing.
  3. Remember that most of the websites you visit will make a note of your visit and may also track the websites you visit before and after their website.
  4. When you sign up for a new social media site, or when you buy something, you are giving personal information to the people who manage those websites. That information is often shared, circulated, and sometimes sold.
  5. Remember that anyone can copy and paste anything you say online, and they can then send it to others, or publish it on the Internet.
Video

Common Sense Media created the below video used in one of our secondary digital citizenship lessons “Trillion Dollar Footprint.”