Most of the people every day navigate through the internet perfectly natural, without any limitation, making extensive use of what it has to offer. The availability of internet access is steadily increasing along with the numbers of devices that are non-stop communicating via it, thus growing our digital universe.
Not only is the variety of devices contributing to this expansion, but the number of normal everyday activities enables the digital universe to explode: Emails, SMS, video files, downloads of MP3 music files, online banking and cloud computing. Let’s not forget the constant stream of social media interactions! Combine all of these and you can see the amount of information each individual consumes and produces increases rapidly every minute.
Digital activities leave traces
Every time we use online services, we leave digital traces. It is important to distinguish between active and passive digital footprints that are left behind. In many cases, data is collected without our knowledge and against our agreement – passive. Sometimes, however, we also give our data willingly into the hands of digital service providers or deliberately share personal information via social networks – active.
With the increased growth of the “Internet of Things,” this data sharing is also increasing. Take for example a fridge that refills itself “digitally” by ordering certain items online when you run out or they expire. The orders that your fridge would make is another example of your digital shadow. Regardless of whether the Internet of Things has already arrived in our daily lives or not, the fact is, at every move we produce data and our digital shadow is becoming longer and longer.
Fun Fact: Recent figures from EMC show that the number of “things” that have been computerized and connected are approaching about 200 million.
What does this mean for data security?
The IT departments of organizations of all sizes and sectors are involved with managing much of the produced data in some way and are also responsible for the secure storage, transmission and delivery. Thus evolves the duties to comply with internal or external compliance rules and privacy policies.
For IT managers, this means a growing challenge with the complexity and rich diversity of coping with Big Data. This not only affects company data management, a costly venture, it also affects the way consumers safe guard their private digital property.
What does this mean for the behavior of individuals?
The first step to a larger digital awareness is to find out how and where you have set your digital footprints. The website Me and My Shadow by Tactical Tech offers the possibility to a basic understanding of how big your digital shadow might be and also gives advice and suggestions for a better privacy protection. The website Digitalshadow.com even goes a step further and offers the possibility for interested users \ to receive an exact calculation of the digital shadow – along the lines of: ” Access your digital shadow and see what we see”
Such tools can be useful to raise awareness for the sensibility and the needs of protecting personal data, but also help to understand what can be done to minimize Data risks in advance:
Tips and tricks for better control of your personal data: Show only what you would like to share
- Google yourself
This hint may seem to be a little strange, but if you’ve never done it before, it might open your eyes.
- Read privacy settings and follow them
Especially in social networks like Facebook and Twitter, it is worthwhile to study the information on privacy and data security accurately and act accordingly. Observe exactly when changes or updates in the Privacy Settings Policy occur.
- Account Management
Get an overview of all the accounts you have ever created. Delete those that are no longer needed or in use.
- Pay close attention to what you share
The tip of posting or sharing less may not be a sufficiently valuable information for most people … Nevertheless, always remember to reveal nothing that is not intended for everybody. Especially be careful with usernames, aliases, passwords, full names, telephone numbers, etc.
In many cases it´s not so easy to make invisible the digital past. However, there exist some tools e.g. for Twitter (e.g. tweetdelete.com) on the market that allows an automatic deletion of tweets after a preset time.
Clear is another tool for personal censorship is ideal for social media multi-taskers and can in addition to twitter also clean up Facebook and Instagram. The tool is very clever as it also identifies posts with “inappropriate content” and the use of “negative language.”
Even if only a small part of the impact of the digital shadow and its consequences could be shown here, an important fact is: When surfing the Internet, nothing beats good common sense. Knowing what information, personal and/or business data, is actually being tracked is a good starting point to demystify the digital shadow and to raise responsibility for your own personal digital life.