Online reputation and digital footprint
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Each time you post online you are building a digital footprint. Your digital footprint forms the opinion or view that others have of you based on your online activity – this is your online reputation.
What you need to know
Every time you post something online, share content or play a game, you are contributing to your digital footprint. The same goes for other people posting about you, this also contributes to your digital footprint. It is important to consider the impact of what you post online for yourself and for others.
It is important to understand the permanency of what is shared online, and the potential audience today and in the future. What we post adds to our reputation; what our family and friends, our teachers, our future employers think about us.
Digital life is both public and permanent. Something that happens on the spur of the moment for example a funny picture or an angry post, can be screenshotted and resurface years later.
Though there are many benefits to sharing information online, everything you post online can become public. What you believe to be ‘private’ can be forwarded, re-posted, screenshotted or passed on making it suddenly public.
There are two main types of digital footprint:
- An active digital footprint is made up of your own online activity for example, photos, comments you post.
- A passive digital footprint is created when other people post about you online for example, a photo of you or a comment about you. You don’t necessarily have to be tagged for other people’s activity to contribute to your passive digital footprint.
You can find your digital footprint just by doing a search of yourself, using Google or another internet search engine. This is the information that other people will see if they do the same, for example a future employer, colleague or teacher.
Once you have done that, there are a range of tools available to help you keep track of your online reputation, including Google Alerts which will notify you of any new online activity related to your personal information, such as your name.
- Check your social media privacy settings. Most social media accounts are public by default, but you can often change this.
- Don’t overlook your profile picture. Profile pictures across all social networks are never private. Be sure your profile picture shows you in a positive way and ensure there’s no personal information or inappropriate content.
- Protect your passwords. Never share your password details, so the only person who can access and change your social media profiles is you.
- Manage your list of friends or followers. Consider reviewing who you are connected with online and do this on a regular basis so that you can feel more confident that the people you share content with are supportive.
- Talk to friends and family. Let them know what you’re comfortable with them sharing about you online and find out what they’re comfortable with you sharing about them. For example, are you happy to be tagged in a photo?
- Remove unwanted content. If you discover sensitive personal information online that you can’t remove yourself, you can ask Google to remove this. You can check what Google is willing to remove. If a nude image has been shared without your consent, you can report this to Report Remove.
Guidance for amending your privacy settings on many online platforms can be found in ‘In the know’.
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Views from the experts
Richard Wall and Elaina Brutto, Careers Wales
Careers Wales explore how to effectively manage your digital footprint and reputation so that it has a positive impact on your future employment.