How I Protect My Personal and Online Identity

I was reading over at ISP iiNet’s Blog and came to a post titled Internet Safety – Your Digital Footprint. The post is about your digital footprint you leave behind when adding content to the web such as Status updates, or posting on forums. I wrote a comment on the blog, and I would just like to share my thoughts and comments to you on how you can protect yourself online.

The below comment by me has been copied.

First of all, since I am on the internet and have a lot of websites (JackCola.org, SadlyUnfriended, CreateASuccessfulBlog.comShareMyLife.info and a number of other websites), I communicate online with a lot of people, and I try to keep my online presence completely separate to my personal presence to help separate my digital footprint and my personal footprint.

To help with this, my Facebook profile is locked down really tight, so only friends of friends can find me through the search function, or by knowing my Facebook username. I have also hidden my friends list to remove any link and information my friends may provide about me on their publicly visible profile. For a while, I even used a custom made avatar that I used as a profile picture for years on all my services I use, before I uploaded a photo of myself for the first time.

The reasons why I do this is to protect my digital footprint. Only those who I personally know are added to my Facebook account. By locking down your profile, this prevents potential employers from finding me to know more about me and what I get up to in my personal life. Every month, I also delete all my status updates and comments I post on other people’s wall so it can’t be found through friends. Basically, my profile is set to Friends Only; my profile wall is pretty much blank; and I have blocked all applications from accessing my profile information, and blocked applications my friends use that can access my information.

My tips to digital safety and protecting your digital footprint is to:

  • Don’t use your full last name. Modify it a bit, change a few characters around
  • Every month, check your Facebook privacy settings. All new features added to Facebook are set to “Show To Everyone”. Did you know applications your friends use can access your personal information without you knowing?
  • Keep your online and personal life separate – just like you should keep your personal life and work life separate.
  • Create an alias for yourself when posting on blogs and online forums.
  • Have a personal email address, and another email address that you use when signing up to websites you don’t particularly trust with your information. Things like Banking, Facebook, PayPal use your personal email address, other sites like online forums, use your other email address.
  • Don’t use the same password for all your online accounts. If a site you have registered with gets hacked, they can use your email and password to access your emails and get access to everything you own.
  • Do not add everyone to your Facebook account – You will be amazed how many people do not know everyone they are friends with
  • Do a search on yourself and see what information comes up about you
  • Be careful what you post about yourself online – you just don’t know who is going to read it
  • Be careful what you post on other people’s wall on their Facebook profile – if theirs is set to public, everyone will be able to read your comment you posted
  • Create a public profile about yourself and keep it separate to your other online activities. Only give out the profile to those you meet in person or for job interviews
  • Any personal identifiable information you publish online, make sure it’s protected
  • Delete any personal identifiable information you have published online, or even setup a new Facebook account like I have done
  • Do not publish personal identifiable information online in that’s accessible to anyone

I hope some of these tips are helpful to you in protecting your online presence.

Update: I have written another post on how you can protect yourself online when using Facebook, Gmail, and other websites which I urge you all to continue reading. For more tips on protecting yourself while online, check out my FAQ on how to protect yourself online.

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