Advice for Students about Digital Footprint

It’s important to know what a digital footprint is and how it can impact students when they use digital services. It is a term used to define the data left behind when using online services, whether this is known or unknown. There are two main types of digital footprints; Passive digital footprints and Active digital footprints.

Passive digital footprints:

This type of data is collected without the students knowing it. Generally, when using an online service, a footprint may be stored in an online database. The data stored may contain the user IP address, when the footprint was created and how the user got to that particular page. All this data forms the footprint that can be analysed at a later stage, shared or even sold.

In an offline setting, a footprint may be stored locally, in files which can be accessed by different types of administrators that can check what actions have been performed on a particular device.

Active digital footprints:

An active digital footprint is when students knowingly release personal data for the purpose of sharing information about themselves via a website or social media. This type of footprint is stored when the user logs into a site or creates a post with a registered username. A typical example of this would be sharing posts on social media using sites like Facebook and Twitter.

Students should be aware that posting or sharing things with friends online may also be viewed by people they don’t know and therefore, it is important to manage their digital footprint effectively.

Here are some ways students can achieve this:

• Ensure personal details are kept private.
• Be careful about the type of websites you provide your personal information too.
• Don’t share your username and password with anyone.
• Do a Google search often, just like you would do a credit check.
• It’s true that when something is posted online it could potentially be there forever – so think before you post.
• It’s important that you are respectful of other peoples’ content and not post online unless you have permission.


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What is a digital footprint?

A digital footprint is a data that’s left behind whenever you use a digital service. Whether you access the internet using a mobile phone, tablet or laptop, each time you go online or use a digital service, you’re leaving a trail of information behind you. It’s not only you who can influence your digital trail. Your friends, family, colleagues, associates, and the clubs and societies you’re a member of can also add to it every time they mention you online.
Even people you don’t know can contribute to your digital footprint. For example, corporate and public sector bodies can add to it as well, when they list public information about you on the internet.

How is your digital footprint used?

Your digital footprint is often used to obtain personal info about you, such as demographics, religion, political affiliations or interests. Information could be gathered using cookies, which are small files websites store on your computer after your first visit to track user activity. When you go online shopping, retailers often leave cookies on your system, allowing them to track your activity from site to site to create targeted advertisements based on those activities.

How a VPN can help shield your digital footprint

One more way to help safeguard your digital footprint is to use a virtual private network, or VPN, to protect your privacy online and even to prevent websites from installing cookies that can track your internet browsing history. A VPN gives you online privacy and anonymity by creating a private network from your home or public internet connection.

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