How Do I Measure—and Manage—My Digital Footprint?

September 6th, 2018

Have you ever checked the cookies on your computer or looked at the history on your web browser? This information is part of your “digital footprint,” and it is a data-fueled overview of how your family interacts across various digital platforms. This includes web-browsing, online-purchasing, details of how long your teen spends on gaming, chats or instant messages from work. Do you truly understand how this digital footprint is gathered — and how you can limit it? 

Digital interaction is pervasive in our culture, with everything from images that you upload to Facebook to searches in Google available for storage by companies and individuals alike. For a standard family of four, your digital footprint could include any (or all!) of the following:

    • YouTube videos of ballet classes, baseball games or karate matches
    • Blog posts with details and images
    • Social media posts
    • The exact age and birthdate of your children gleaned from online games
    • Purchasing records
    • Information about where you (or your kids) are when you (or they) go online

If you post often on social media platforms, your digital footprint reveals when you’re out of town, how often you go on vacation, and where you go. Your purchasing history tells marketers what color pants you most often buy for your kids.

Always check the terms of service when you are starting to use a new site, and read these documents when they are provided as updates, too. You may not realize how many of your rights are being taken away from you quietly while you are doing something as simple as web browsing. On social media, set you accounts to private or “friends-only.” Don’t allow friends to “tag” you in the photos they post.

Protecting your family online is increasingly difficult. It takes vigilance and even a willingness to be slightly inconvenienced at times. There is always a trade-off between a seamless digital experience across various devices and giving up layers of your family’s privacy to unknown individuals and organizations. But, in the end, is anything worth more than your family’s security?

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