Managing your digital footprint

Goal and overview

The overall goal for this adventure is to help you understand how you project yourself to world on the Internet. Specifically, we want to help you:
  • learn more about the many ways in which you leave a trail of your presence on the web
  • understand how your presence is often permanent and beyond your ability to change or delete
  • and, on the positive side, how these facts provide you an opportunity to create a positive, on-going public presence about yourself as a digital citizen
Situation: Much of what you do online leaves ongoing traces of our activities on the Internet. Every day most of us contribute to an evolving public presentation of who we are that anyone can see and that we cannot erase. We might think we are at home on our laptops, cell phones or iPad,s communicating with just a few people on our Friend's list. But in reality we are in a huge auditorium speaking into a public address system to a world that can record and redistribute everything we say.

Bottom line: if the world is listening to us when we are the web, then let's make sure what we say is interesting, engaging, positive and representative of our better selves.

Leaving digital footprints happens in many ways, including:
  • Websites and web merchants. When you sign up for a new social media site, or when you buy something, you may not realize that you are giving personal information to the people who manage those sites. That information is often shared, circulated, and sometimes sold.
  • Facebook. You have many conversations on Facebook that you think that only your Friends can see. But your Facebook conversations are more public than you might realize, because it's quite natural to lose track of all the Friends you have allowed to have access to your conversations. Also, remember that anyone can copy and paste anything you say into an email that they send to others - or publish on Facebook.

  • YouTube. Perhaps someone video recorded you at a party, and posted that on YouTube. Because it is posted on someone else's YouTube site, you don't have access to it and can't remove it.

  • Google. And don't forget that Google reads your GMail to choose what advertisements you might like to see.

And these are just some of the ways digital footprints get created.

Brainstorm: Do you know other ways that digital footprints are created?

Bottom line: You want to make sure the footprint you leave represents you in your best light.


Your adventure

The basic steps of this adventure are:
  • Step 1. Develop a big picture perspective. You will watch some videos and read some web material that will paint the big picture of this issue.

  • Step 2.  Search for yourself. You will search for yourself on the web, and put together a character resume based on what you find. How to do this is explained below.
  • Step 3. Exchange findings and put together a composite view. You will then pair up with someone else in class and swap findings. Based on the findings, you'll put together a composite view of your partner.
  • Step 4. Interview. You will then take turns being the interviewer and interviewee, using the information you uncovered as the basis for the interview.
  • Step 5. Report in. Let the rest of the class know what you discovered.
  • Step 6. Discuss creating a positive footprint. There is no hiding on the web anymore. So the question becomes: How do I create a web presence that shows my best side?


Step 1. Develop a big picture perspective

Before you begin looking for yourself, let's build some background information about the digital footprint phenomenon.

Watch Digital Dossier. Questions to consider after you watch it:
  • How much of what the film makers talked about applies to you?
  • Is there anything that others might know about you that you would rather they didn't?
  • Are there things you would like others to know, that maybe your digital dossier doesn't include?
  • What is the different between what you want your friends to know, vs. your parents, vs. employers?

Watch Your Digital Footprint May Be Unflattering. Questions to consider after you watch it:

  • What are your take-aways from this?
  • Do you need to change any of your social media settings? Behaviors?
Watch What Digital Footprint Will You Leave Behind?, posted on the Hoven School District Superintendent's Blog. Questions to consider after you watch it?
  • Have any of the things mentioned in this video ever happened to you?
  • If so, what did you do?
  • In retrospect, what do you wish you had done?
  • How many of the safety precautions that were mentioned do you use?
Visit the website My Privacy Everyday. Take a look at the list of everyday online activities, just so you can begin seeing your "mediascape" a bit more clearly. Questions to consider:
  • Does this describe an average online day for you?
  • If not, how is your day different?

Step 2. Search for yourself

Now, search for yourself. Here are a few resources you can use.

Google. Begin with a simple Google search, and then consider a few of these suggestions:
  • Put your name in "quotations"
  • Use the the time range option (typically on the left hand side of the screen) to limit your search to, perhaps, just last year.
  • Use Google Alerts; this will send you an email anytime your name shows up on the web.
  • Does someone own .net? .org? Find out who this is. I recommend you own
  • Use the site command to get really specific (like "your name")

People search services:

Cloud generators, visualizers

Keeping track of yourself

  • Scoop it. Scoop it prepares an on-going magazine about you based on what if finds out about you on the web.
  • Google Alerts. As mentioned above, if you create a Google Alert about yourself, every time you appear on the web you will receive an email.

Brainstorm: Do you know other ways to search for yourself, or keep up on how you are being presented on the web?


Step 3. Exchange findings with your partner and put together a composite

Now exchange your results with your learning partner. Each will put together a composite view of the other based on what they found out. Feel free to consult with each other.

By composite view we mean this: when you draw a picture of a person based on all of the information you have gathered, who do you see? Is the person:

  • mature? (immature?)
  • kind? (mean?)
  • makes good decisions (or not so good decisions)?
  • someone you want on your team (or not)?
  • needs to develop in what areas?


Step 4. Interview, inquire about each other

Possible interviewer/ee roles. As a teacher I record myself interacting with my students on a regular basis. There is no better way for me to understand what improvements I need to make as a teacher. The point of this "interview/inquiry" exercise is similar to recording yourself in that it addresses the following need:

    you need to see yourself as others see you
  • This hard to do without help. Having someone put together a composite of your digital footprint can provide that help.

  • Here are possible interview/interviewee roles you can use for this activity:
    • College admissions. Colleges are interviewing you for possible admission. A recent factoid: well over half of all colleges check social media sites like Facebook to see how applicants behave online. What they find figures into their decisions.

    • Employers. Employers are interviewing you as a possible employee. And perhaps you want to know more about someone who is interested in hiring you.

    General inquiry. You might not be interviewing people in a formal sense, but simply looking into who they are and how they behave. Here are a few possible scenarios for this:

    • Contacts, acquaintances. You are simply wondering about someone who has shown an interest in being a friend, or working with you on a project, or hiring you.
    • Parents. Perhaps you are a parent who wants to know more about how your son or daughter's friends represent themselves in public on the Internet. Based on what you find, you may want to talk to children - or their friends.

    Brainstorm: Do you know other roles you might use?


    Step 5. Report In

    Report your findings to the group. What did you discover?


    Step 6. Create a positive digital footprint