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Pros and Cons of Your Digital Footprint

Have you ever thought about your digital footprint? Until recently, the thought rarely crossed my mind. But with all of the attention on privacy in the media lately, it’s caused me to think twice. More than ever, our lives are intertwined with the Internet and technology, perhaps to the point where technology begins to feel like an extension of our existence.  I know I feel completely lost on the rare day I forget my iPhone!

A digital footprint is the trail of information we leave behind while using digital technology. We create these footprints by using the Internet, social media, credit cards, loyalty cards, GPS systems, etc. Third parties (like card issuers, advertisers, and law enforcement) can get access to this data in order to piece together our identity and use it in some way.

It’s easy to look at the negative aspects of a digital footprint, but there are in fact some positives as well. More than ever, our lives are intertwined with digital technology and the best thing we can do is to remain aware and educated. I did some research and below are some pros and cons that result from third parties tracking our digital footprint . . .

  • Fraud or legal issues can more easily be detected
  • Personalization (like suggested products or related advertising) serves to add value to our use of the Internet
  • Companies can more easily offer incentives based on interests and needs, sometimes resulting in cost savings
  • Personal data can be used to generate revenue without our knowledge
  • It can be annoying and distracting to be constantly inundated with advertisements and information
  • Purchase behavior data may be used as a basis to reduce credit limits or increase interest rates
Here are some ways to protect your digital footprint:
  • Delete all tracking cookies and browsing history from your computer regularly
  • Review security settings on social networks and stay updated on new features and settings
  • Make sure to use the latest version of your Internet browser. Internet Explorer 10 has extra built-in security.
  • Choose safe and secure passwords that are unique to each login and be sure to change them regularly.
  • Use cash instead of credit cards
  • Opt out of providing personally identifiable information (e.g. you may not be required by law to provide your telephone number when making a purchase)
  • Remember that anything posted is public (even if your social network settings are private) as the information is stored on a server network

For more info, this video on NPR offers a simple explanation. Also, check out your Google Dashboard to see the information Google has stored about you.