Hundreds of years ago indigenous people followed animal tracks to find food and sources of water. Today the tracks we make through emails and attachments, uploading videos or digital images, forum registrations and other forms of transmission of information leave traces of personal information online.
Digital footprint refers to the trail we leave on the web through any form of digital communication. Digital footprint also refers to one’s online presence or visibility.
Some content we freely provide, such as information shared in social media such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, etc. Other content is gathered passively through browser cookies. All of this data can be aggregated to build a public digital dossier of online identity, use and behavior.
Every time you sign up for an online account and use that account you are adding to your digital footprint.
It’s a good idea to check your virtual identity from time to time to determine the size of your digital footprint. Although people often believe that bigger is better, in terms of digital footprint this may not be true. The bigger the digital footprint, the more likely it is that unwanted personal details as well as inaccuracies are found.
Google provides tools for its users to determine what is available about them on the web as well as to keep tabs on future releases of information.
With Google’s Me on the Web you can sign up for notifications when your personal data appears on the web.
To locate Me on the Web:
1. Sign into a Google account such as Gmail
2. Click on the Email Account ID in the upper right corner of the screen to open a menu
3. Click to select Account
4. Click to select Data Tools
5. At Me on the Web click to select View Options
6. To determine the current size of the digital footprint, click the Search Now button
7. Click on displayed links to see what information is available at each site
8. To request removal of information from sites where the information is inaccurate or to which you’ve never submitted information, look for a Contact Us link on the bottom of the home page. Email or write to request removal of the information. If a polite request to remove information is refused or if a site’s policy is not to remove content, ask whether your name can be removed from the post.
- Note: website operators are under no obligation to remove content unless a court order is issued.
9. To track future content posted to the web, click on the Manage Web Alerts button
10. Add other email addresses or names by which you are known on the web by typing in the name(s) or email address(es) one at a time into the text box then clicking the Add button
11. Determine how often to receive email alerts from Google, such as Once a week, Once a day, or As it happens, by using the arrow menu
12. Indicate which email address Google should use to send the alerts, if more than one email address is listed