The beginning of a new year usually marks the ‘cleaning up’ of one’s life – joining a gym, quitting chocolate, renovations, etc. My challenge to you is to add cleaning up your digital footprint to this list. We all leave traces online with every single activity that we do, and it is worth taking the time every now and then to clean up these traces so you do not leave yourself exposed to potential privacy and safety exploitations. Here are some of the things you can do:
Search for yourself
Searching for yourself online is the best way of knowing where to start with your digital cleanup, and to gauge just how much work there is to do! Use a variety of search engines to search for your name, as each engine will display different results – Google, Bing and Yahoo are good ones to start with.
Delete unused social media accounts
We all have those social media accounts that we set up with great enthusiasm years ago that haven’t been used since **cough MySpace cough ** There is no point having your personal information stored by these sites and visible to the public if you are no longer using them, so go through and shut them down! Think MySpace, UrbanSpoon, eBay, StumbleUpon, Flickr…
Review your Facebook privacy settings
As Facebook is the most commonly used social networking site, be sure to review your settings regularly to make sure no content is unintentionally being made visible to the public. Facebook has been known to make sweeping changes to their privacy settings which can leave your content exposed if you do not manually check up on it. There are five elements to Facebook privacy that all users ought to know about. Review your Facebook activity log
Facebook allows you to review every single action you have completed through your profile and adjust privacy settings as well as remove content. To do this, go to your profile, and click on the “Activity Log” button at the top near your Cover Photo. You will see a list of all your Facebook Activity as well as what privacy settings are applicable to each item. From here you can Unlike, Delete or Hide content. It is worth taking the time to go through your activity log, as you may be surprised by how much ‘questionable’ content you have posted throughout the year/s!!
Review content on other social media accounts
Of course there are other social media sites being used besides Facebook – so be sure to go through the same process with each of these, reviewing your privacy settings as well as removing content from them that you no longer wish to be made visible.
Unsubscribe from mailing lists
You know all those emails you receive selling you things, updating you on things, teaching you things… how many do you actually open up and read? If the answer is not many, then unsubscribe! There is no need for these companies to hold onto your email address if you aren’t ever going to visit that store, read their newsletter or visit their website again. Most of these emails provide you with an “unsubscribe” option at the bottom, however if they don’t you will need to contact the company directly.
Change your passwords
Passwords are all that stands between you and hackers who want your personal data and money. It is important to regularly change the passwords you use for all your accounts, ensuring they are strong – ie they include a mixture of letters (uppercase and lowercase), numbers, symbols and do not form easily recognisable words or names. Also make sure that your passwords are different for your most important accounts such as Facebook, email and online banking. This is to safe guard your other accounts if one was ever to get hacked.
Check for software updates
Check your computer for software updates… and actually do them! Companies like Apple and Microsoft are constantly looking to improve their product against hackers, and so it is important you update to keep your computer as safe as possible.
Review apps you’ve downloaded
If you have downloaded apps to your phone that you no longer use, delete them. Just like those social media accounts you signed up for – there is no need for these apps to have access to your data if you aren’t getting any use out of them.
Build a positive reputation
Now to look ahead to 2014 – try establishing a positive reputation that will never need to be cleaned up! Use your web presence for good things, let it reflect and enhance all your good qualities and nice things that you do and achieve.
Think before you post
The best way to ensure you have a clean digital footprint is to not post anything dirty to start with. Before you press post or send on anything you do, think about the repercussions for having this content visible to the public forever. Even though we can go through and lock down our privacy settings and delete posts, we can never be entirely certain that this content is forever removed from the internet.
Author: Kim Maslin
Kim Maslin is founder of 3103 Communications, a dynamic company that offers social media & online safety seminars for parents. Kim's goal is to help increase parent's confidence, skills and knowledge in the area of social media.
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