Year-End Task: Clean Up Your Digital Footprint

It will soon be 2020 and you’ll soon have to make up a list of New Year’s resolutions to welcome the new year with a positive attitude. However, this article isn’t about New Year’s resolutions and embracing change and improvement— it’s about an important online task you should complete as a pre-emptive part of your New Year, that would be to clean up your digital footprint.

It’s essentially what you leave behind from social media accounts, comments in any domain, old published works, certain memes attached to your name, or many other online stuff which may or may not be embarrassing. This digital footprint, regardless of how old or new, is not always beneficial especially if you’ve started to pursue a more professional path involving the internet. 

You also don’t need to be a blogger or have work primarily based on the internet in order to be concerned with this. If you’re someone who uses the internet mostly for social media or leisure, then that’s all the more reason to clean up your digital footprint. For all we know, you might have left behind a nasty or wild Vegas party video back in your bachelor/bachelorette days. The last thing you want to happen is for someone to dig that up.

Not only are those kinds of “secrets” unwanted, they can also be security liabilities for bloggers.

Out with the old

A quick search of your name in any search engine can easily reveal heaps of old information about you and can even use them against you if they want. 

Now that you’ve recalled all the immature and unprofessional chaos you’ve recorded and left behind on the internet, it’s time to know how to get rid of them. First thing you’ll have to do is to search for yourself, you can use online tools to help you find people by name, including yourself. Web tools like the one linked help will do a deep search for valid entries and will give information that you’ll usually spend hours scouring Google for.

This gives you a full picture of your digital footprint. Once you’ve already pulled up the appropriate information you’ll have to evaluate which among those can damage your reputation or business. 

What to purge?

We’ve prepared a good criteria for determining which to erase. Do take your time in deciding which to preserve and which to delete.

1. Foul language

The 18-year-old you might have had a different worldview back then and since you’ve outgrown that phase, it’s time to cremate your past self. Any status, meme, or post that includes a negative language is something you should clean from the face of the internet and definitely something you’ll want to reflect upon.

2. Old and inactive social media accounts

Your name when it comes to blogging or professional presence on the internet should be unique and have the least amount of competition. This makes searching for you or your positive digital footprint easier. If you have any old social media accounts, personal or otherwise, whether it’s Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn, deleting those is a favor to yourself.

3. Incriminating activities

Some of what you’ve left behind back then might have been incriminating though they’re not necessarily crimes (in the legal sense). It makes no difference, you should erase them. Any video, photo, rant, or website or business ties that are less than beneficial to your professional persona or personal memorabilia should be dispatched. 

4. Unauthorized contact details or location information

Certain apps or websites can be blamed for this, especially those that collect plenty of information about you through a third-party. If you see anything that has published your home or business address or phone number or email without your knowledge, then it’s time to take action and have it erased if you don’t want it there. Depending on where or who published it, you might need to hire legal or professional help.

Prevention is better than cure

As with all problems, it’s better to carry out preventive measures in order to avoid them completely. Moving on in the future, you’ll want to keep your digital footprint clean so you don’t have to look back and scrub it periodically. To do this, certain steps are to be observed when interacting online:

1. Keep your apps checked

Since most of your personal or leisurely interactions on the internet are done via phone, having proper phone security is paramount. Aside from getting an antivirus for your phone, you’ll also want to be careful of any apps that collect or leak information. It’s not uncommon for apps to do this and there have been many alarming cases of privacy breach.

2. Read privacy and cookie policies before you accept

Do away with your habit of scrolling down to the bottom of the privacy policy and hitting ‘accept’ immediately. Most of them aren’t that long anyway. There could be vital information there that says what kind of data they’ll be collecting from you or what they’ll be using it for— or even who is using it.

3. Keep track of your social media accounts

You can do this for any account in general for any website. Make a list of all your important or existing accounts and check which are active or necessary. Deleting the inactive or unnecessary ones will reduce risks of data leaks or privacy breaches.

4. Check your security

Storing sensitive information on a computer that’s always online is highly risky and should be avoided. If you can’t, then proper security measures such as antiviruses or encryption can go a long way. That’s because getting illegally uploaded data off the internet is almost impossible and you want to keep your personal information safe.

5. Be responsible

Curating your own content whether it’s for a blog or for personal social media flexing is a must. Such is the world today and people are more sensitive to which is harmful or not, which is a good thing. That means more and more people are taking the internet and its implications seriously. That means you should as well, so watch out for what you upload. As an adult, you should know which is appropriate or not.

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