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Cleaning your digital footprints

May 8, 2014 • Opinion

These days, most people have several online accounts. Anyone with a smartphone or who uses a PC regularly probably has multiple accounts – from social media, blogs, Web sites, special offer sites – the list goes on. Unfortunately, this means that our most personal information is floating around in cyber space, freely accessible to anyone willing to look for it, and it can come back to haunt us at any time.

Simon Campbell-Young, CEO of specialist distributor Phoenix Software (image: Phoenix)

Simon Campbell-Young, CEO of specialist distributor Phoenix Software (image: Phoenix)

Simon Campbell-Young, CEO of Phoenix Distribution, says people need to be more careful about what information they share on the Internet. “This goes hand in hand with protecting your identity, and therefore your reputation.”

He says just as technology enables people to check out possible companies where they see a job opportunity, it enables those companies who are looking to hire to check out prospective staff. “Your digital footprint tells a lot more than you might think. A few clicks of the mouse and your prospective employers could find out a lot more information about you than you may be comfortable with.”

Moreover, he says to consider just in the past day how often you might have used the Internet. “Perhaps you’ve updated your Facebook status, checked your email, read the news, done some online banking, or even had a Skype call with a friend overseas. Even when you are no longer connected to the Internet, the information you have either accessed or created is still out there, floating in the ether as it were.”

Campbell-Young says the trails we unconsciously leave behind can be hard to erase. “The growth in identity theft, as well as the rise in corporate tracking, has make it more crucial than ever before for us to delete and control our digital footprint.”

He cites Google as an example: “Google is one of the biggest culprits, and has been correctly accused of collecting our data. You will notice that adds that pop up on your mail page will be targeted at you specifically, based on past searches on the Google search engine.”

However, Campbell-Young says there are several ways to ensure your digital footprint doesn’t damage your reputation, or any future employment opportunities. “Start by Googling yourself to do a comprehensive self-search.  Before you can manage your digital footprint, you need to be aware of what is out there, and what other people who search for you might find. Should you find anything that you feel could be harmful to your reputation, have it removed. This would include removing tags from pictures, as well as flagging information for removal.”

“You will have to accept at the start that you won’t be able to get rid of everything. Should there be any potentially damaging information that you cannot erase from the Net, then at least be prepared to answer any questions that might arise from it. In a job interview, it helps to be able to address how a particular action could impact on your ability to do the job well. Although the chances are any potential transgressions may not come up at all, it never hurts to be prepared.”

Over and above removing any questionable content you might have on your own social media pages and similar, it helps to understand the privacy settings that are available on the various social sites you use. “Always use the maximum privacy possible. Block your photos, statuses and suchlike from all but your most trusted contacts. Thoroughly read any privacy policies to make sure that you clearly understand what you are agreeing to by making use of the services. Finally, if you have a personal Web site or blog, scrutinise each and every bit of information you have posted about yourself to make sure your digital footprint is as clean as possible.”

Staff writer

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