Understanding the digital footprint and its impact on our lives

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Digital footprint

In today's world, where information and communication technologies (ICT) play a predominant role in our lives, it's essential to understand what a digital footprint is and how it can affect us. In this article, we'll explain the concept in 10 key points.

Digital footprint

Definition of the digital footprint

The digital footprint, also known as the digital trail, is all the data and information we leave behind when we go online. This includes websites visited, interactions on social networks, emails sent and purchases made online.

The different types of digital fingerprint

There are generally two types of digital fingerprint:

  • Active digital footprints : They correspond to the traces left voluntarily by an individual when using ICTs. For example, when someone posts a status on Facebook or post a comment on a blog.
  • Passive digital fingerprints : These are traces collected without our knowledge, for example when we visit a website. website which collects data on its visitors, or when our IP address is recorded during our Internet browsing.

The players involved in collecting digital footprints

Several players are likely to collect our digital footprints, including :

  1. Search engines : They record and analyse queries made by Internet users in order to offer relevant results and improve their services.
  2. Social networks : they collect data from interactions between their users as well as information entered on personal profiles.
  3. Merchant sites: When making an online purchase, bank details and personal information are generally stored by online merchants.
  4. Internet Service Providers (ISPs): they record the IP addresses of websites visited and retain this information for a limited period, in accordance with applicable legislation.
  5. Employers: More and more companies are taking an interest in the digital footprints of their current and potential employees to anticipate potential problems or check their online reputation.

The risks associated with the digital footprint

When we leave traces online, we expose ourselves to a number of risks, including :

  • Invasion of privacy : certain sensitive data may be disclosed and used maliciously.
  • Account hacking : personal information left online can help a hacker guess a password or steal an identity. digital identity.
  • Discrimination: certain information about our digital profile may be used to discriminate against us, for example when looking for a job or accommodation.
  • The file : our digital footprints may contribute to the creation of databases about us, particularly for marketing, surveillance or law enforcement purposes.

The benefits of controlling your digital footprint

By becoming aware of our digital footprint and seeking to control it, we can reap a number of benefits, such as :

  • Protecting our privacy : By being vigilant about the data we share online, we limit the risk of disclosing sensitive information.
  • Enhancing our image: By controlling what is said about us on the internet, we can ensure that our online reputation reflects who we are and what we want others to see.
  • Avoiding the file : By regularly checking what information is available about us online and requesting that it be deleted if necessary, we limit the risk of databases being created without our knowledge.

Tools for analysing and managing your digital footprint

There are a number of online tools and services that can help us analyse and control our digital footprint:

  • Search engines : A simple search on our first and last names can show us what information is available about us;
  • Analysis platforms : Some websites offer detailed analyses of our online presence based on the traces we have left on various social networks or websites;
  • Monitoring tools : it is possible to set up alerts on our first and last names to receive notifications of new publications concerning us.

What can you do to reduce your digital footprint?

Here are a few simple things you can do to reduce your digital footprint:

  1. Check our privacy settings regularly: On social networks and other websites we use, it is important to check and update our privacy settings to control access to our personal data.
  2. Be discerning in our publications: Before publishing any information or photos online, we should take the time to think about the potential consequences and how this could affect our reputation.
  3. Request the deletion of inappropriate data: if we identify incorrect, obsolete or harmful information on our digital profile, we have the right to request its deletion from the website concerned.

The right to digital oblivion

Since 2014, European citizens have benefited from a right to digital forgetting, which allows them to request the deletion of certain personal data from search engines. In particular, this right concerns information that is inaccurate, obsolete or of no legitimate interest to the public. It is important to note that this right must be exercised taking into account the balance between respect for privacy and freedom of expression, as well as the general interest in preserving access to information.

Digital footprint education

In order to make young people (and the not-so-young) aware of the issues associated with digital footprints and to give them the keys to mastering their online presence, it is essential to integrate this issue into educational programmes. Schools, teachers and parents have a crucial role to play in this process, by encouraging reflection and the development of the skills needed to navigate the internet responsibly and safely.

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