Of course, the many headlines about hacker attacks and data theft are worrying, especially when supplemented with stories about how private data is sold on the dark web.
However, according to experts, the threat posed by the Dark Web is overstated. believes that we are less likely to fall victim to the dark web and worry about our online activities. After all, each of us leaves behind so-called digital footprints when surfing the net.
But What Is A Digital Footprint, And What Is It Composed Of?
There are two types of digital footprints, active and passive.
Active footprints are created through activities such as:
- Posts on social networks, such as Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, etc.
- Completing online forms, for example, to sign up for newsletters.
- Accepting cookies.
Passive digital footprints come about through:
- Apps and websites that use location.
- Social media and providers collect likes, shares and comments to display advertising tailored to your interests.
Digital footprints are left by everyone active online in any way, and they contain personal information.
They are becoming more and more critical, primarily through social media: Posts shared here by a person often contain links through which information about other people can be found. So not only can you reveal too much about yourself, but others can too.
Why Is It So Important To Be Aware of Your Digital Footprint?
Everyone should be aware of the personal information they leave about themselves on the Internet. Otherwise, it could even cost you the job because employers are more interested than ever in the digital footprint of their applicants. As a result, there are now a growing number of companies who, on behalf of employers, screen applicants’ online activities to uncover habits or attitudes that act as a deterrent.
A 2017 study by CareerBuilder found that 70% of companies use social media to find out about their applicants. More than half of the employers have already seen postings that prevent them from hiring someone. The talk here mainly was of sexism, misogyny, racism or hate speech.
In the USA, in particular, applicants are screened to such an extent online. In Europe, stricter data protection guidelines ensure that potential employees are not under surveillance. These guidelines state that companies need a legal basis to screen applicant profiles, and that means the data the company accesses must be relevant to the job.
However, it is not just employers who are interested in Internet histories. Thoughtless comments can quickly fall into the wrong hands, damage your reputation, and have serious consequences. This is especially true for people in the public eye, such as actors and politicians.
Therefore, it is always essential to ensure that the digital footprint is also linked to personal reputation.
Now that might sound intimidating, but it doesn’t have to be. And we don’t have to delete all our profiles from all social networks now, either. However, there are some security measures that each of us should take to heart.
What Can You Do to Stay Safe online?
1) Use different email addresses
You should never use the same email address for social media for job applications. Often people in HR use tools that automatically discover social networks associated with a candidate’s email address, which gives them access to all photos and other information shared here.
2) Use different passwords
Different passwords should be used for other accounts. Strong passwords should be at least ten characters and contain letters, numbers, and symbols. It should be easy to remember, but not use prominent dates like birthdays, children’s names, etc. You can use a password manager to avoid remembering all your passwords.
3) Don’t reveal too much personal information online
Before you publish something, you should always ask yourself whether you know the effects and whether you can deal with them. People often don’t realize what they are revealing in a single photo and the connections made.
4) Trust is good. Control is better.
It is essential to familiarize yourself with the privacy settings of social networks and apps. It is best also to create a test profile and use it to check what information is publicly available on the correct accounts.
5) Keep software up to date
Outdated software is more vulnerable to viruses and hacker attacks because it has more security holes. Therefore, the latest updates should permanently be installed.
6) Using a VPN connection
Another point to protect the digital footprint is a VPN connection. This makes it possible to browse the web anonymously. A private network is created with a VPN via your Internet connection, and this obfuscates the IP address so that the steps taken on the Internet cannot be traced.
7) Reflection on one’s online behavior
Everyone should make sure that their image stays positive online as well. Links to questionable photos in social networks should be deleted, and comments that could harm you should not be published. Instead, you can present your work or hobby in your blog.
It may not be possible to completely and permanently erase the traces you have left online. Still, if you take a few safety precautions, you can control what your digital footprint looks like and what information it contains.