Your Digital Footprint From Online Activity

Posted on Sep 30 2020 - 9:00am by Samantha Clark

We have access to anything and everything with the touch of a button. Social media and the internet in general can be a bit of a wormhole, each site having its own rules and policies that many of us agree to without ever reading them- who has the time to scroll through pages and pages of text, just to use a website? Although these sites have general laws and regulations that they need to follow,

that a greater understanding of your internet usage and the imprint you leave is more important than ever.

Social media

facebook page

Before you share something on social media- do a little research beforehand. Re-sharing ‘friends’ posts could actually do more harm than good. For example, the police are discouraging sharing missing people posts unless from an official source.

39 million of us in the UK alone are using social media. Facebook in particular is a great tool to keep in touch and inform our friends and family of what we’re doing. But it’s also a great tool for businesses to gain access to our personal information, habits and tastes.  If the scandal at Facebook a few years ago taught us anything, it’s that we need to be more vigilant when it comes to agreeing to companies having access to our information – in some cases we’re the ones giving them the permission to have access to it.

Facebook quizzes

Take for example the (many) quizzes you see on Facebook. You know the ones; test your IQ, which Disney princess are you most like, what would you look like as a man…they’re tempting, but when you click on these to ‘find out’, we’re actually giving consent for the companies hosting the quizzes to access our personal information, friends list, photos and other information about us. It’s generally not a one off either, we’re actually giving companies the opportunity to impress themselves on our profiles and to monitor what we do day in and day out. Scary huh!

Stop them getting access

You can stop companies from getting access to your information by heading to settings > apps and websites > and editing the settings on each application or removing them altogether.

Look at your privacy settings

It’s also worth reviewing your privacy settings generally from time to time as these do change and you may not get a notification of that. To keep your information as secure and private as possible, we’d recommend changing your settings to ‘friends only’. Don’t be concerned about people not being able to find you. Those you want to connect with, will be able to get hold of you.

The content you share

One other thing to be mindful of is what you’re sharing, particularly if you have open settings, or have a large number of friends/followers. Be sure that no private information, such as your bank card, is in the background of your photos. We’d also advise caution with the content you post as any extreme views could be seen by your or potential employers and cost you a job.

Location and hashtags

Be careful of sharing your location, especially when you’ll be out of your home for a few days/weeks, and the #’s you use in your statuses. Location and #’s serve as keyword searches and if you associate yourself to a place, you are inadvertently letting everyone know your movements (whether you’re friends with them or not). Not only could this be an opportunity for a hacker to gain access to a variety of information, but could leave your home, family and friends vulnerable too.

Something to be mindful of…

Facebook, Twitter, Instagram etc. although are seemingly ‘free’ to use, you effectively, like the old adage, are the product. The insight they gain from your movements allows them to sell this to companies and target you for advertising. Want to know what is of interest to them? Go to Facebook ad preferences to see the information of interest and alter the settings for adverts that you see.

Passwords

Common passwords

If you see your password here, you should change it immediately.

It’s recommended that we don’t use the same pin number for all of our cards and that our accounts have individual passwords. It can be a challenge to manage but ultimately is best at keeping your information safe and private.

To help simplify, you could have a staple 4-6 character password which you alter either side with an additional 4-6 characters. Though ensure that it isn’t something that really personal, not publicized and a little bit random. Try and ensure that your password is a mixture of letters in upper and lower case, numbers, and special characters to make it more complex.

Also consider creating a document that can be shared with your partner/children should anything happen to you so they can gain access to anything you want them to have access to. We’d recommend keeping this with a copy of your will, insurance policies etc. so they don’t have access to it unless absolutely necessary.

Your digital footprint

Footprint

Whenever you use the internet, regardless of device, as you move from page to page and account to account, you leave a trail of breadcrumbs that are collected and stored, known as cookies. The cookies information is shared with website owners but identifiable information such as your name, email, address are excluded. The information shared tells businesses your likes, habits, usage (time of day, what device you’re using, the searches your conducting etc.) to allow businesses to tailor their products and services to you. This information is also used in social media to tailor the adverts that you see which is why you may see adverts for things you’ve just searched for in your social feed.

If you don’t want to leave a trail of cookie crumbs, whether because you’re buying a present you want to keep secret, or you’re accessing your online banking, we’d recommend you use incognito/private browsing. This may still entail some trace back, but ultimately it doesn’t record a history, cache, or cookies on to the computer when conducting internet searches in this mode. This is an ideal function whether you use a public computer, or a search for sensitive information (even on your phone) that you don’t want other to see.

To access the private browsing, head to your browser settings and it should say ‘incognito browsing’ or ‘private browsing’.

Who to trust

It’s bad practice for any site not to be secure. In fact, it’ll harm their ranking potential if they don’t have a secure site.

The way to determine if a website is secure is to look for a padlock in the left hand corner of the website URL. Alternatively, the website will start with https: (s for secure). If this is missing (and it is even missing from some very big, trusted companies), we don’t recommend making a purchase through them. It means that the site is more vulnerable to hacking/having your information taken so you’re best staying clear of it.

If you’re looking for additional proof of a good site, conduct a quick google search of the company and check out the reviews. If you feel comfortable with what you see, then by all means make a purchase or share your details on the contact form.

It’s not just websites to be weary of either. If you’re looking to share a post on Facebook/Twitter etc. just take a second or two to see who the original post is from and make sure you’re happy being associated with them. Often we can be tricked into sharing propaganda because occasionally it’ll be something we relate to when in reality most of what they produce day to day does not reflect who we are.

We hope you’ve found this post useful. If you’ve any other tips, we’d love to hear from you, just share your ideas below!

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