It is a good idea to leave a positive digital footprint online. This information is your “digital identity,” and it may show up when someone searches for your name online, underscores Jason Wilson, human resource recruitment specialist, at The Jamaica National Group.
He noted that your online identity can influence different aspects of your life. For example, employers, schools, colleges, and law enforcement officials could use your digital footprint as a basis for their character assessment.
Kathryn Chin See, business development and research analyst at MC Systems, explains what a digital footprint is: “Think of your digital footprint as a trail of patty crumbs, or dirty footprints across your mother’s freshly mopped terrazzo floors. Your digital footprint is a data trace of where we have been and what we’ve done in the digital space. It encompasses the websites you’ve visited, your social media activities, your email composition and distribution.”
She further notes that, like our digital identity, our footprints are created automatically through online interactions, and include active and passive components.
“There are active trails, such as the things we are conscious and deliberate about: social media posts and sent emails. Then, there are passive trails, including the things we don’t realise are being “noticed,” such as: website visits, Google searches and online purchases,” she explained.
She said that our digital footprints are permanent; and we can never completely erase them; however, we can manage the trail we leave behind.
Mr Wilson cautioned that when a company is hiring, all aspects of the applicant are considered prior to offering them a letter of employment.
“Some of the pre-employment tools includes: an aptitude test, intelligence test, medical, police report and background reports. As part of the background checks, social media plays a major part, as well. Social media helps to identify the person’s lifestyle and what they do,” he pointed out.
He also explained that the background checks are not only to validate the academic achievements or the work experience of an applicant; but, also the social life of the person, and this will assist in deciding if the applicant is a good fit for the company.
“Be careful about what you post; and also be mindful that whatever is posted can form an assumption about your character and who you are; hence, while we make lightly of some postings for the fun of it, at the end of the day we could be writing a story about ourselves, which we are not aware that we are projecting. And, that story could affect future employment and decisions by the organisation,” he said.
Dr Wayde Marr, president of the Vector Technology Institute, agreed that a person’s digital footprint is permanent; and the process of monitoring and storing data traffic provides an almost indelible map to tracing your online journey, over time.
“It is near impossible to erase your digital footprint. The fact is that, it is easier and cheaper to store data than it is to delete it. Once you sign onto the internet, your footprint data is being stored and can be accessed,” he explained.
“The data within your journey grows with every click of the mouse. Another problem is that this data is not in any one central location, nor is it being held by any single person. The data can be mined by just about anyone with specialized knowledge, skills and tools,” he added.
Miss Chin See highlighted that in this age of technology and hyper-connectivity, “Our digital presence: who we are, where we go, and what we do, are unavoidably tracked. We cannot avoid the creation of our digital identities and can’t help but leave our digital footprint behind. We can, however, manage them.”
Citing some of the steps we can take to leave positive footprints behind, she said that these include: being mindful of what we share and who we share it with; being vigilant and paying close attention to where we are going, and how we get there. As well as keeping abreast of the latest trends, security threats and data protection initiatives.