Before we answer that question, here’s a quick review of things.
Your digital footprint is your content online and all people, places, and things interacting with it.
Also, there’s two categorizations within digital footprints.
Explicit: The data you control and use to speak with the digital world (for example, profile characterizations, your likes and shares on social media, you purchase history, etc.).
Implicit: All the backlogged, stored information of how you interact with the digital world and how it interacts with you (for example, tracking technology, social media circles and their categorizations with which you participate, engagement data for content filter algorithms through page views of interested topics, etc.).
A simple test to check your explicit footprint is to search for your name in a search engine. The higher up the page, the more explicit your footprint on the given page or application. Speaking on data awareness, lots of people think they only need to focus on implicit footprints. After all, that is the part that you cannot get insight on. But this simply isn’t the case and we’ll discuss this more in a moment. Your digital footprint is a combination of the two categorizations and thus equally important.
To see a sample of your digital image, participate in the experiment through the Digital Footprint app, in both Google playstore and App store. The app works like this, you sign in, sync your Facebook account, and answer the awareness survey questions. The app has now scored your perceived footprint (your answers) and has compared it with Facebook profile’s user metrics, scoring both. Based on the two scores you will see your Bigfoot number. This is your digital footprint. An overview follows allowing you an in-depth look at additional information. This additional information is where the score aligned and where it did not align.
Here’s the part most users are not prepared for, a widely, mismatching of scores. Two vastly, different score numbers point to a mismatch between what you think you are doing and what you are actually doing. It means you do not have conscious control over your implicit digital footprint like you do your explicit. (Hence the reason most people think they need to focus sharply on the implicit footprint.)
I have this data, now what?
The essential question now becomes what do people see and what does that mean for you and who you are? Meaning, what’s happening with the explicit footprint? The type of footprint that you and everyone else can see. Did you leave up a drunk college photo which reappears before a job interview? Do you like to wear superhero costumes without a digital context recognized?
Implicit footprints should be thought of this way: In most cases advertisers, application designers, third-party big data buyers; it is incredibly difficult for any of these groups to create a full and connected picture of you. There’s too much implicit data out there. In most cases reduced and aggregated data is used to capture the complexity.
Remember, it is difficult to be aware of your implicit digital footprint due to the missing transparency of the underlying applications. The result is that you might decrease your trust in different applications, such as dropping out of a social media platform. Your explicit footprint is easier to get a hold of. It relates to data you can find and, in some cases, you can control.
From here on, listen to others, pay attention to your own click-behavior, and above all, get involved in the conversation. The BigFoot Digital footprint app and website have a discussion forum where users can engage with others and the researchers on the research itself. You can create the science, and you can create the tone setting the policy interests. You have power to do something about your digital footprint. Take that invisible thing out of the cloud, and make it into something visible and tangible.