Just like the footprint you leave when you walk on the beach, your digital footprint is the trail you leave about yourself when you’re on the net. Anything you do online, including any profiles you have created, the sites you’ve visited and the online conversations you’ve had, add to this trail - even if you think you’ve been doing things anonymously, or have hidden them (e.g. deleted them from your computer)!
Digital footprints can be a bit of a two-edged sword. On one hand, being online can be all about creating online personas (how we’re known in cyberspace) and profiles, as we interact with a variety of websites and people. Also, it can make our lives easier if we customize the type of web we want to view (for example, through having websites show us personalized advertisements that we’re interested in seeing). However, leaving an inappropriate digital footprint can come back to bite you, especially when people that you didn’t intend to know certain things about you, come across your ‘footprint’ online.
Ideas of what might be considered an inappropriate digital footprint can vary from person to person. It might include things like:
• if you’ve talked online about engaging in illegal activities,
• if you’ve harassed someone online,
• if there are pictures posted online of you drunk, without clothes etc.
• or if you’ve visited ‘questionable’ websites (like, for example, illegal pornography, age restricted sites or hate sites).
All these things could cause you trouble now or in the future if someone you didn’t intend sees what you have done.
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