How to Evaluate Your Digital Footprint

Wherever we go on the Internet, we leave a trace of ourselves. Whether it's in the form of comments, our behavior being tracked, or things we choose to do online, it collects into something generally called your "digital footprint." A digital footprint serves as a kind of history of what you've done online, and forms the basis of your online reputation. It's important to know not just what your digital footprint is, but what it might be saying about you. Here's how to find it, and clean it up.

Start With Social Media

The place we tend to leave the deepest impression, over time, is on social media. Consider social media the "heel" of your digital footprint; it's where we tend to leave the most weight. Most social media behavior is fairly innocuous, but look over a few things. For example, you may have "liked" a page or business years ago that you no longer care about, or perhaps has a bit of an ugly reputation now. Or there might have been arguments you've gotten into, or things you wish you hadn't said, that are posted for all to see. Take a moment to find those things, clean them up, and apologize to those involved if necessary.

Check Your Website Comments

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Another place you might want to clean up are comments on your favorite website. Take a moment to read over what you're saying, even if it's not under your own name, and ask yourself if it's something you would say in person. If not, consider deleting it; you never know when your comments may stop being anonymous, and those comments may be tied to your email address.

Check Your Cookies

Next you'll want to take a look at the "cookies" in your browser. Cookies, in this case, are little strings of code websites use to follow you around the Internet and see where you go after you leave their site. They're fairly common, and most of them are innocuous; many sites use cookies so you don't have to log in with your password every time, for example.

Still, they might contain data that you'd rather not have public. Or you might be uncomfortable with not knowing who's following your activity online. So consider deleting them, especially ones that you're not sure where they came from.

Examine Your Browser History

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Many people aren't aware that most web browsers, as a matter of course, store the websites you visit in a history. That's so if you want to find them, you can easily return to them. However, that history can give away deeply personal information; if you've been researching a medical condition you've been suffering, for example, every site you've looked at will be in the history. Cleaning out your browser history is a good way to ensure your digital footprint doesn't impinge on your privacy.

Stay Sharp

Finally, the best way to keep your digital footprint clean is to not get it dirty. Think carefully before getting into an argument online, even with friends and family. Before posting a comment, ask yourself if this is something you want tied to your name. And above all, remember the old adage that a closed mouth attracts no feet. One of the best ways to keep your digital footprint tidy and a smart rule of reputation management in general is to simply think carefully before you speak.

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