August 28

Creating your Digital Footprint

This week’s thoughts come from the concerns raised by a staff member when exploring the Redback Project (getting started using Web 2.0 tools), and starting to have to put information online.
“How much is safe?”
“Who will see what I post?”
“I don’t want to share so much of myself with the whole world”.

Try Googling your name – what do you come up with? I used to just get me, but now there is some person in Tennessee on Facebook with my name… hmmmmmm, however, if I Google “Starnott” I get mostly my own posted stuff – in fact the first 4 pages, and only one random one on page 5 – I did come across stuff I had forgotten doing, which was helpful.

Check out the sorts of information you may already be sharing Your Digital Footprint

How much is enough?, and will you be opening yourself up for identity theft? are very real issues which one should consider when venturing into the online world. The amount of information about you is called a digital footprint. How large you make this footprint is entirely up to you, as is the type of information you share and with whom you share it. The bottom line is no matter what level of information you share you need to be comfortable with it, never divulge more than that, and there are the obvious don’ts such as home address, phone number, credit card, license number etc. I will take you through a few points which should, hopefully, help you to make a positive digital footprint, while maintaining your security.

Creating a generic email.
When signing up for blogs, wikis, Nings and other Web 2.0 “stuff” you will be required to give a username and an email. Although it may at first appear easier to use the one email for everything, it is a good idea to keep your work or home ISP email separate and create a new web based email account for your web2.0 journey. I have always done this, just to provide some anonymity when I add my email address to various sites, as both my work and home email accounts include my fullname. You can easily create a web based email account using Google, Yahoo, Hotmail, or a host of others.
My preferred one is Google’s Gmail because of the power of the linked accounts at your fingertips.

Creating an online identity
This can be as much of you or as little of you as you care to share. I have, for most of my online eLearning sites, given myself the online name “starnott”. I know others who have used their whole name, some just a first name and others a made up name entirely. To start building your digital footprint try to use the same name, and this will become a presence you can find. A Twitter friend who uses his whole name also uses that to tag anything he posts online, so all of his information becomes linked to him, and if he has posted something online which he wants to access, and can’t remember where it was posted, a quick Google search will usually turn it up.
You can link your online name/identity with your web mail by using the same name for both.
When filling in your name on random sites I tend to play it by ear a bit, depending on the “quality/reliability” of the site I may use my real name – such as on iTunes, but for the most part I just put a letter, or a couple of letters. Date of birth is the same… you can go a year or so either way, in most cases it is just to check you are either over 13 – laws in the US state children under this age are not permitted to give certain information to web sites, or hold accounts – COPPA – or over 18
No one is going to know if you shed a couple of years, making you… 30 instead of 52…hehehe, again, just think about who may use the information, and why, as to how honest you want to be.
I wasn’t sure about Twitter when I first joined up, and chose a different name, however, I do share my blog updates and information through it, so many of my followers know “who” i am.

Passwords
Clearly these should be kept safe and private – I have a little black (well green) book where I keep all of my passwords and login details for different accounts, which is not kept anywhere near my computers. Handy for those random sites I know I have joined and can’t remember the password I may have used.

These are just some of the ways you can safely create and develop your digital footprint. If you have thoughts or other ideas, please feel free to add your comments.

We do need to think about safety, even as adults, and be aware of the information we post online to create a positive digital footprint, as well as staying safe

I hope this helps you on your journey.