Do you remember the old tale by Brothers Grimm about Hansel and Gretel and how they used white pebbles to create a trail to find their way back home? As we manoeuvre our way through cyber space we also leave a trail, however we don’t leave pebbles that can easily be picked up again, but rather your digital footprints, which will always lead right back to you.
Have you ever wondered why you receive advertisements for something you are interested in or about that same topic you searched for the day before? This happens because every time you search the web, visit a site, utilise an online service or interact online, you leave a trail of clues showing your preferences, behaviour and interests. With every click you are actually sharing information with companies and people who can track your digital footprints. This information is then used to tailor the types of advertisements and push notifications you receive.
At SaveTNet, we define your digital footprint as everything that has your fingerprint linked to it. Your digital identity is everywhere – searches, emails, posts, tweets, likes and shares. Everything done online can be found, shared, copied and broadcast, so we need to ensure that it is positive and true.
As an employee representing your company’s brand, it is not only expected, but also in your best interest to consider how your digital footprint aligns to the values and internal policies of your employer. Additionally, your digital footprint literally impacts your employability and reputation, because companies and recruiters don’t have to wait for you to send them your CV, as they will simply find you online.
Most of us will “Google” someone we’re meeting for the first time. In a way, this protects us and helps us to prepare for the meeting as we can identify their personal beliefs, whom they associate with and hobbies. The same is true for the person who will be meeting you for the first time. What they find about you can be interpreted in various ways and they will arrive at the meeting with preconceived ideas about you and how they are willing to engage.
So how can you see what your digital footprint looks like and where it leads?
- Set up a Google Alert to receive notifications when your name is used online.
- Use different search engines (such as Google, Yahoo and Bing) to search for your full name and nicknames.
- Search your name in combination with other phrases such as your company name, your address, your phone number and different file formats like .pdf and .ppt. For instance “Name Surname” “Company Name”.
- Do the same search using someone else’s device, because “personal search bias” could distort your results if you only use your own devices.
- Also try the search in Private or InCognito view.
- Use tools such as GoogleBlogSearch to locate personal blogs.
- If you use Gmail, Drive, YouTube and Google Maps, it’s good to discover what the search giant Google knows about you and what they share with advertisers. Find the answers by logging into your account and go to your “My Account” section and select “ Personal Info & Privacy”. You will also be able to “tailor ads to your taste”.
- If you don’t like what you find, or you share a name with a criminal who has been featured in the news for the crime committed, then it is worth investing in digital reputation management.
This should grab your attention, especially if you consider that potential employers and partners will certainly look at your online profile to determine whether the door is opened or being shut.
May this remind us that we need to behave and interact responsibly in digital space and that the winds of change might never wipe out the digital footprints we leave today.
Article by BabyYumYum expert Rianette Liebowitz. Rianette is a professional communicator as TV and Radio presenter, cyber safety activist for SaveTNet, Author, Entrepreneur and Accredited Public Relations Consultant. Rianette is the founder of SaveTNet Cyber Safety, which aims to save lives by creating awareness for responsible digital engagement. She shares this message as presenter of the online radio show, the Cyber Health feature, weekly on CliffCentral.com. Her upcoming book called “Not For Sale – Relationships of Influence” talks about the power of extraordinary relationships of influence. She established Owitz Communications in 2009 and through her strategic communication services she helps companies to effectively manage their stakeholders relationships and create the relevant exposure for their brands.