Digital Footprints

I have mentioned in the past that people are not very security conscious when they are online and Bruce Schneier, at his recent talk in Dublin put it best when he said “we leave digital footprints all over the internet”. Every time we use the internet we can unwittingly hand out information that we would not give to a random person we may meet in a bar or a club.

A lot of websites and apps only allow their usage to users who sign up to use them. Signing up can be done in one of 4 ways:

Online Form
You fill in an online form with certain details like name and email address being compulsory. Quite a few people when filling in the form will also give non-compulsory data. Only give what is required and nothing more. For example there is no need to give further details like your age, address etc.

Facebook
You may also have the option to sign up using your Facebook login details. This will appeal to a lot of people as you only have to login via Facebook or if it’s on a mobile device you can log in automatically via the Facebook app on your phone. However, you should be aware that you will be giving access to all your Facebook details as well as allowing them to see who your friends are on Facebook.

Linkedin
You may also have the option to sign up using your Linkedin login detail. Again, this will also appeal to a lot of people as you only have to login via Linkedin or if it’s on a mobile device you can log in automatically via the Linkedin app on your phone. Please be aware you will be giving access to all of your Linkedin details and allowing them to see who you are connected with. Your Linkedin details will include your name, age, where you studied, your employment history as well as possibly your phone number and address.

Twitter
You may also have the option to sign up using your Twitter account. This also may appeal to a lot of people as you only have to login via Twitter or if it’s on a mobile device you can log in automatically via the Twitter app on your phone. In doing so you will be giving access to all your Twitter details , tweets, allowing them to see who your follow, who follows you, and any photos that you may tweet.

Sometimes you are only given the option of using your Facebook, Linkedin or Twitter account to sign up and we have all done this including yours truly. Facebook, Linkedin and Twitter have realised that their members database is a commodity that be easily sold so they are selling access to it to app and website developers.

It can be very easy to build a personality profile on you by the information you post online. This can be used in various ways to influence things as diverse as elections and revolutions like the Arab Spring or to determine if you are a perfect fit for a job that you are applying for. When you go for a job interview it should be no surprise to find that the person interviewing you has googled you. Many employers do this these days. Information, comments made by you or pictures of you on posted on Facebook could stop you getting the job. Prospective employees, on occasion, have even been requested to furnish their Facebook login details to employers to enable them to access their account.

There was widespread shock at the revelation earlier this year that Facebook manipulated information posted on 689,000 user’s home pages to make them either feel more positive or negative.This was done to see how you would post. Any of your friends, family plus future and present employers would also have seen this.

You must ensure that no other persons have access to any of your social media accounts and how you use them. Make sure that your Facebook account is setup so that only friends can see your posts and pictures. You will notice that Facebook change their settings on a regular basis, so keep an eye out for this.

If you are a member of any online bulletin boards or forums, you will have noticed that the majority of them allow visitors to read them. Never use your real name as your user name. Make sure whatever you post can’t be used to identify you. Aim to restrict what information about you is available online. Make sure that the majority of it is only available to family and friends.

Social Media is probably the biggest culprit when it comes to digital footprints. It can be very useful if used correctly and safely so don’t abuse it or let it be abused by others. Use it to keep in touch with old school or college friends as well as family members and always keep an eye on your privacy settings. Don’t forget that what you post or tweet can go viral so think before you do and  try to avoid doing either after a few drinks!