Consider this scenario: In 2014 a parent puts up a picture of their 4 year old child running in the yard wearing nothing but a nappy. Or, consider the 22 year old female that takes a picture of herself with her friends at McDonald’s. How about the 15 year old that writes a comment about not working hard enough for their recent exams because they lacked motivation combined with a teacher that lacked inspiration. All these scenarios are common nowadays.
We barely think before we are armed with a device in our hands or a tablet as we lay on the sofa in front of the TV. We say what we think, we write what we do. Logical to do, no? However, does anyone think about the ramifications of what the openness of the web today does for the future. Does that digital footprint matter?
Specifically, what is your digital footprint?
Advocates discuss ad nausea the impact of our digital behavior today. We know it is important, but why do we do so little about it? We know one of the great things about being online is the ability to share videos and photos with your friends and seeing their response. Everything you post online combines to make your digital footprint. Remember that what you share with your friends may also be viewed by people you don’t know. And once it’s online, it could be there forever. So think before you post.
You can manage your digital footprint by:
- Keeping your personal details private. Use a nickname instead of your real name and always consider giving out your name, address or phone number online.
- Not sharing your username or password with anyone.
- Thinking before you post. Once posted, it can be difficult to remove.
- Not posting things that you don’t want others to know about or that you wouldn’t say to their face.
- Being respectful of other people’s content that you post or share. For example, a photo that your friend took is their property, not yours. You should post it online only if you have their permission.
Do note that there are two main classifications for digital footprints: passive and active. A “passive digital footprint” is created when data is collected without the owner knowing, whereas “active digital footprints” are created when personal data is released deliberately by a user for the purpose of sharing information about oneself by means of websites or social media.
Remember the earlier reference to the parent that places a picture of the child in a nappy running in the yard. Did the parent seek the permission of the child to take that picture and place it on the internet, potentially for a very broad audience to see? Pre the web, the picture would be stuck on a fridge and you might be lucky if cousins consumed the picture. Today, the minute it is posted it is open slather, generally. Accelerate to 2035. That same nappy wearing child is 21 years old and in Mumbai headed into an interview with the CEO of a large company. What if that nappy photo was the start of many more things that might be a turn off for the employing company? Can the 21 year old litigate against the parent for pictures taken and shared with the public, without permission?
Remember the 22 year old female that loaded a picture with her friends sitting at McDonald’s? She is studying marketing today. In 5 years she could interview with a health food company. Does that picture at McDonald’s have any bearing on their opinion of the candidate?
Now the 15 year old. In ten years he is being considered for an offshore posting. Does his lacking motivation play a part in a potential move?
Hopefully you get my point. Having the internet to express ourselves is terrific. However, everyone needs to be acutely aware of what they say and where that can go. Today’s actions can be tomorrow’s problems.