How to control your digital footprint

13News Now Janet Roach has the story

(WVEC) -- The provocative pose, your phone number and other personal information, and the tweet you posted that you regret. How can you make it all disappear? Delete doesn't always do the job.

Tyler Zernicke, Senior Info Sec Consultant for cybersecurity firm Sera Brynn says people might be surprised at how easily it is to create a digital footprint that's almost impossible to erase.

"Any time you log onto Facebook and you make a post and you put a picture up. Anytime you put a video or comment on a video on you tube." And that's just the beginning. Simply browsing the internet helps develop your footprint.

"Internet archives for one--goes through and archives everything. Then you've got all of the search engines and they're constantly crawling the web and creating indexes of everything. So even the actual content isn't saved through one of those indexes, you still know it was there and you may get some meta data off of it."

A person's best bet is to be careful what you post in the first place.  Limiting your digital footprint also means being aware of data clearinghouse websites such as Spokeo... the sites that gather personal information to sell to other companies. Anything you do in the public domain, such as a trip to DMV or testifying in a court case puts information on you in the public record that can show up online.

Getting these sites to remove your information is a tall order but that doesn't mean a person shouldn't try. Experts suggest you contact these sites directly to ask for your information to be removed. It can be a long and tedious process. Zernicke says be careful if you choose to hire a service to help you fix your internet reputation. Not all are trustworthy. "It's kind of akin to the folks who say they are going to fix your credit."

Internet Marketing consultant Rod Watson with Watson Marketing Solutions in Norfolk, VA works with business owners who want to improve the online reputation of their companies. He says what he suggests to them is something that could work for anyone. Massaging your reputation doesn't mean limiting what you post but just the opposite.

According to digital experts, there are some additional things that a person can do to control their digital footprint. They include deleting your social media and shopping accounts, unsubscribe to all mailing lists, and delete search engine results that return information about you.

© 2017 WVEC-TV


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