Digital Footprints: The Internet Keeps What’s Left Behind

Written by Marla Abao
Edited by Jes de Joya
Graphics by Xixi Tankiamco

In this day and age, everything is accessible with the click of a button and in the blink of an eye. Indeed, accessibility is a wonderful feat that technology has brought us so far. From instant communication methods (hello, Messenger and Viber) to random memes and videos that have influenced nearly the entire world (looking at you, TikTok and YouTube), the Internet is a platform that has been aiming to aid our everyday needs. In fact, people joke that there’s an app for nearly everything!

As we use these technologies everyday, we become more reliant, and maybe a bit too comfortable with how we use it. Although it’s extremely convenient, we’re starting to be less careful with what we’re clicking and what we’re sharing with the world. You might have heard the saying “think before you click”, but have you ever really reflected on why this is particularly important?

The answer lies in the power of your digital footprint.


BOTTOM LINE UP FRONT!

  • The Internet has become an important part of our lives and many people use it without thinking about what they are posting or sharing. 
  • Our activity online leaves a “digital footprint” which can be accessed by different people, as well as companies. 
  • Deleting a post does not get rid of it; people may screenshot posts, and data may be stored in a company’s database. 
  • To secure your digital footprint, you would need to check your privacy settings, secure your accounts by setting strong passwords, and read through an application’s Terms and Conditions.
  • We must practice mindfulness when using the Internet by making sure the things we post are positive reflections of ourselves.

But, what’s a digital footprint anyway? These are any bits of data that you leave behind whenever you use the internet. From social media posts, comments, reactions, shares, and messages, to your search history, geolocation features, and website clicks – your digital footprint is basically whatever your internet activity is.

Of course, these interactions are very normal for us; in fact, they’re so natural. But without understanding how important this information is, serious privacy issues may arise. This is because the data we leave has certain implications about who we are as people.

Just a rule of thumb: everything you post on the internet is permanent.

Yes, they are permanent. Whether or not an app or a website has a delete button doesn’t mean that whatever you consented to or posted is gone forever. After all, screenshots exist. And outside of screenshots, some companies still have ownership over whatever you posted, and heck, they don’t invest in such large-scale data storage devices for nothing. Always remember that whatever you post is somewhere out there forever.

It’s scary to know that multiple companies and even simple people have access to all this information about us. With every email, every account, every survey, more data about ourselves and our way of living is being collected. It’s as if they can already paint an accurate picture of who you are. With all the data that they have of you, it’s so easy to do background checks — or worse, steal your identity.

So, what should we do now that we know that all this information is being collected? 

Of course, this doesn’t mean you’ll have to stop using the internet and run off in some nearby cave with no connection to the world whatsoever. It just means that you should be mindful about all the data that you share to the world; it means that we have to be more aware of our digital footprint.

But, how do we do that?

First and foremost, as funny as it might sound, Google yourself! Do a check on what type of information you can search up about yourself. Are your old (and slightly embarrassing) Tumblr posts that you’ve forgotten to delete still up? Are some of some posts or photos meant for private audiences actually available for the public to see? Find these posts, and try to clean them in a way that you think will suit you best. Ensure that you don’t leave anything that might cause you harm in the future!

Next up, adjust your privacy settings and secure your accounts! Most applications and services have privacy settings in order to control what data can be used. These can include access to sensitive data such as your location. Also, securing your personal information and your digital footprint can be as easy as setting strong passwords and keeping a list of your current accounts. If you need help remembering all of these passwords, try using a reliable password keeper. By doing this you prevent any cyber attacks that might come your way. 

Also, one thing we tend to overlook most of the time is skimming through the Terms and Conditions. They normally should state how the data is being used and the legal implications of it. Heck, it might save you in the long run! So, take a few more minutes to read and let yourself be aware of how your data is being handled.

Lastly, we’re gonna bring back the quote again: “Think before you click.” Essentially, this just means practice mindfulness whenever you use the World Wide Web. Before you share anything, make sure you’ve read what it says and that it’s reflective of who you are. Being a bit more mindful will help keep your digital footprint as clean as possible. In the end, it’s important to remember that the most effective way to improve your digital footprint is to make sure that the only footprints you leave are positive ones.

REFERENCE

Parker, K., Graf, N., & Igielnik, R. (2019). Generation Z Looks a Lot Like Millennials on Key Social and Political Issues. Retrieved from https://www.pewsocialtrends.org/2019/01/17/generation-z-looks-a-lot-like-millennials-on-key-social-and-political-issues/

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