We’ve seen it far too many times. Someone posting something questionable into the black void that is the internet in the past only to have it come around and biting them in the worst way years later. Take, for example, the infamous UC Davis pepper spray video, in which a police officer pepper-sprayed a handful students during a protest.
The video that was spread throughout the virtual web ignited a PR nightmare for the university, which ultimately cost UC Davis more than $1 million. The school paid approximately $175,000 for a team of specialists to try to eliminate all traces of the incident on the web. However, like most things on the internet, the offending post quickly resurfaced with a vengeance, casting the university in a less than favorable light. The attempt itself seemed foolhardy because, as we all know, once something is posted onto the internet, it’s difficult to get rid of.
This doesn’t just affect large institutions like UC Davis; it can impact the everyday person. With the smallest bit of information, it’s possible for someone to steal your identity. Perhaps the most startling revelation is that personal information can even be accessed by a simple Google search rather than social media.
There are plenty of reasons why one would pursue deleting their online presence, whether you want to better protect your online privacy or remove something embarrassing. That brings forth the million-dollar question: Can you actually erase your digital footprint?
Now, most people have been conditioned to believe that your online posts are going to stay on the internet indefinitely, no matter how many times you try to delete that content; however, there are methods you can employ to significantly reduce the size of your digital footprint. Everything starts once you begin sharing personal information on the internet.
A Visa survey found:
- Nearly half of the participants revealed their birthday on social media
- 29% listed their phone number
- 20% shared their home address
- 14% revealed their mother’s maiden name
- A whopping 7% even disclosed their social security number on social media
Some ways to help combat a potential breach of privacy include:
- Deleting inactive email accounts
- Searching yourself online and requesting for search engines to remove any information about yourself
- Unsubscribe from all email lists and text message alerts
- Have your phone company list you under “unlisted” so your personal information isn’t easily accessible
- Adjusting the privacy settings on your social media
- Being mindful of what you post
In short, the answer is yes. And no. While you can ultimately control what goes up and what gets taken down, the reality is your digital footprint will always exist. However, you can take precautions to ensure that your privacy isn’t invaded.