New Year, new (online) you!

January 18, 2019 - Marjorie Platero , Analyst

At the start of the year, people make all kinds of New Year’s resolutions – eat better, exercise more, save more money. This year, I’m resolving to control my digital footprint!

What the heck is a digital footprint?! A digital footprint is the trail of information about us that we leave behind when we use the internet. Whether we use our own personal computers, smartphone, or public computers – everything we do via the internet says things about WHO we are and WHAT we are doing.

WHO could be things like name, usernames, date of birth, phone number or banking information. WHAT is all the stuff that we do online, like searches we perform, websites we visit, stuff we buy online and the contents of our social media posts.

The majority of us today have a digital footprint and it matters to a lot of people, even if you don’t think it’s that important. It especially matters to those who are making money off of our digital footprints and to criminals who want it so they can cause us harm – often both happen without our knowledge. Researchers and scientists are also studying our digital footprints to see what they can learn about us – our behaviors, desires and beliefs.

Did you know that scientists study Google search results to see what disturbing truths they can uncover about all of us? Check out this article to learn more about this. Think about all those things you’ve ever searched for. Would you want your family, friends and colleagues to know what you’ve been searching? I certainly wouldn’t. And not because I have something to hide, but because as the article notes, Google is there so I can learn about the world, not so others can learn about me!

You own the WHO and WHAT about you. So you should take control of it and decide who can have this valuable information. Check out this article we contributed to the Consumer Association of Saskatchewan’s quarterly publication, SaskWatch. Our article talks more about:

  • our digital footprint and how we can control it;
  • why you should read those long, and often confusing, “terms and conditions” and “privacy policies” we all accept, but never really read; and
  • resources that provide more information about our digital footprint, and the harm that can come to us when it gets into the wrong hands

As long as the internet exists and we all use it, we will all have a digital footprint. So why not make this year the year you take care of your online self? If you’re on board with me, I recommend starting small so you can be successful with your resolution. For example, make it your resolution to learn about your digital footprint and how to control it. Then, work yourself up to taking small steps to actually control what you’re leaving behind on the internet. Eventually, you may find yourself taking bigger steps to clean up your online presence and to share your knowledge with others.

Your digital footprint is YOU online, and it’s just as important as the person who is sitting across a computer screen reading this blog. Let’s make 2019 the year we take care of both.

Wishing everyone a safe, and happy, online presence in 2019!

(psst…if you’re really curious to know what people around the world have been searching for on Google, check out this entire Google website dedicated to exactly this.)

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