Digital Footprint- Your Online Data Trail


So, what is that digital footprint everyone keeps talking about? Wikipedia defines the term:

Digital footprints are traces left by someone’s activity in a digital environment. There are two main classifications for digital footprints: passive and active. A passive digital footprint is created when data is collected about an action without any client activation, whereas active digital footprints are created when personal data is released deliberately by a user for the purpose of sharing information about oneself.In social media, “digital footprint” can refer to the size of one’s online presence as it relates to the number of individuals he or she is interacting with.

In short your digital footprint is your online data trail.

All of us, like it or not, are creating these trails. You might not be actively doing it, but as more and more information is being digitized and easily searchable, there is all kinds of information ABOUT YOU to be found online.

Google-digital footprint-1
Will Richardson wrote an article titled ” Footprints in the Digital Age“  in Educational Leadership:

As the geeky father of a 9-year-old son and an 11-year-old daughter, one of my worst fears as they grow older is that they won’t be Googled well. Not that they won’t be able to use Google well, mind you, but that when a certain someone (read: admissions officer, employer, potential mate) enters “Tess Richardson” into the search line of the browser, what comes up will be less than impressive. That a quick surf through the top five hits will fail to astound with examples of her creativity, collaborative skills, and change-the-world work. Or, even worse, that no links about her will come up at all. I mean, what might “Your search did not match any documents” imply?

Consider what Richardson is saying (and I am not talking about the aspect of having a negative and incriminating digital footprint here):

What does it mean when a potential employer, college recruiter or client googles your name and does not find anything or much?  What if a principal searches for a potential hire’s name and work and does not find anything? What does it mean NOT to have a digital footprint in these cases? Is it positive or does it shed a negative light on your portfolio/resume? What does it say about you, if you do not have a blog, a twitter account, nor other social network identities? What does it mean if you, as a teacher do not have a Digital Teacher Portfolio?

Jeff Utecht takes it even a step further than the individual teacher when he tells Schools: Take Control or Forfeit your Profile:

You need to take control of your online presence, because if you don’t…someone else will!

He says that it is the school’s responsibility to create, watch out and protect their online footprint or their students will. He calls for schools to take control of their online spaces such as Facebook and Wikipedia.

Have you googled your own name or the name of your school lately?  Are you googling it on a regular basis? For what content are you responsible for? What content was posted without your input? “Protecting” your digital footprint is becoming increasingly important as it is becoming common practice for ANYONE to google you or produce content ABOUT you.

Through the Library blog, I stumbled upon the he Pew Internet & American Life Project’s “Digital Footprints” report from 2007

Four categories of online adults based on online footprint concern:

1) “Confident Creatives are the smallest of the four groups, comprising 17% of online adults. They say they do not worry about the availability of their online data, and actively upload content, but still take steps to limit their personal information. Young adults are most likely to fall into this group.
2) The Concerned and Careful fret about the personal information available about them online and take steps to proactively limit their own online data. One in five online adults (21%) fall into this category.
3) Despite being anxious about how much information is available about them, members of the Worried by the Wayside group do not actively limit their online information. This group contains 18% of online adults.
4) The Unfazed and Inactive group is the largest of the four groups—43% of online adults fall into this category. They neither worry about their personal information nor take steps to limit the amount of information that can be found out about them online.”

Now the report is almost 2 years old. I am wondering if perception about digital footprints has changed?  Have we moved from trying to limit and prevent information about us to be published online (out of fear of privacy loss, identity theft or misrepresentation) to making sure that some trail of us, who we are and stand for can be found online?


Ask yourself the following

  • In what category do you fall?Worried, confident, concerned or unfazed?
  • Are you as a teacher thinking about, developing, building, monitoring, and protecting YOUR digital footprint?
  • Are you thinking about your footprint when  (or not) posting or commenting on blogs, uploading student projects, participating on twitter, nings and other social network places?
  • Do you keep your personal and professional digital footprint separate?
  • Are you one to “hope for” or “not wanting”  parents, principals, students and others finding a trail to and about you?
  • Do you think that teachers are (will be) at a disadvantage in the future if they do not have pertinent search results when googled?

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