Updated: Nov 6
DIGITAL IDENTITY (also known as Digital Profile) is a collection of information for individuals and/or organizations that defines online profiles. A digital profile includes behaviors, connections, pictures, videos, stories, and other characteristics that make up our digital lives. Social Media platforms have become the storage of our online identity. These profiles are constantly used whether we approve of it not. Digital profiles are actively used in Marketing, Recruitment, College Admissions, and many other areas. Let’s explore how our digital identities can be used in the information superhighway.
On a social media platform such as LinkedIn, Monster, Indeed, CareerBuilder, etc., your digital profile can indicate that you are either seeking your next employer or you are looking for ways to increase business for your organization. Recruiters and HR managers are searching the web to go beyond what our resumes say about us. Hiring managers look for online behaviors about their top candidates to ensure they are about to bring quality resources into the organization. Today, it is very important to reinforce the good chemistry between team members by bringing in individuals with the right set of personality traits. Social Media profiles can increase your chances of getting your next job; however, your online behaviors can also negatively impact your possibilities to get the job offer you have been waiting for. Therefore, make sure your online profiles adequately reflect who you are and what you represent.
Companies have made it a practice to attempt to track customers’ online traffic to build a pattern on their behaviors. Companies record behaviors by tracking cookies (small text files - 255 characters or less - that are placed on your web browser or computer by web servers. A cookie is created when you first visit a site that wants to store information). These cookies can track patterns that could lead to buying decisions. Marketing professionals also use online surveys to collect tons of data from site visitors in return for coupons, discounts, or other incentives to convince the audience to share information. Internet Ads can follow you while navigating through the information superhighway. That is the reason why you notice that you visited a retailer’s website and later see ads of the same or similar products while reviewing your Facebook profile.
College Admissions. –
Students aspiring to enter their college/university of choice should be extremely careful regarding what has been posted about the student’s profile. College admission staffs are increasingly going online seeking additional information/background about a prospective student to determine if a specific potential student has previously displayed behaviors that might go against the institution’s core values.
Privacy and Security Risks. – Before digital identity became a business norm, an individual had to be present with physical identification to prove his/her identity. Now that the world has gone digital for mundane and sophisticated transactions, all it takes is access to an internet-enabled device and access to the world wide web. While convenient, this situation also elevates the risk of identity theft and security risks.
WAYS TO REDUCE YOUR RISK FOR ONLINE SECURITY EXPOSURE.
By being part of the online community, we are bound to be exposed to a security vulnerability. It is an inherent risk of being online. However, there are few tips to consider in an effort to protect yourself from unauthorized access and/or reduce the risk of having your digital identity compromised. The following recommendations were presented to protect your online identity;
I.) Self-Evaluation of Social Media Activities. – Periodically review your social media postings; both what you have posted and where you have been tagged. The idea is to review if any of your prior postings were done in the heat of the moment that does not reflect your professional views and social beliefs or simply is not you. Also, review those posts where you were tagged to ensure your associations with others will not limit your future opportunities.
II.) Block Cookies. – Turn on private browsing mode when navigating through the internet. This will prevent others from tracking your online history. Digital cookies could store users’ credentials for access convenience in the future. However, this flexibility increases the exposure of your digital identity. It is highly recommended to clean/erase your internet history at the end of every session to reduce unauthorized tracking.
III.) Self-Online Reputation Audit. – Ensure to search for your name via multiple browsers a couple of times a year. You might be surprised by what the web might be saying about you. If you identify erroneous information about yourself, pursue corrective actions with the publishing source. Also be prepared to explain compromising photos, videos, or posting in front of a potential employer. If you can find negative information about yourself, so can others looking to establish any kind of relationship with you.
IV.) Avoid Bookmarks. – Pre-recorded websites could expose an end-user online history if the originating device is temporarily or permanently accessible by unauthorized individuals/programs.
V.) Alternate Between Emails. – Create and use several email addresses to disguise your online activities. Only use your real email address for legitimate and formal online activities.
VI.) Navigate with multiple browsers. – Consider using several browsers to navigate thru the internet to disorient online trackers. For example, use one browser for email activities, another browser for social media networking, and another browser for general surfing. Keep in mind; NEVER visit the same site with these three browsers.
VII.) Invest in Internet Security Software. – The average security software cost around $50 to $100 a year, or $4.17 to $8.33 a month. The price is minimal when you consider the impact of safeguarding your identity. While not 100% safe proof, it goes a long way to prevent your personal information from being misused by malicious individuals/organizations.
VIII.) Shop Online Using Temporary Credit Card Numbers. – Work with your credit card company to validate they can provide you with temporary credit card numbers which can only be used for one-time purchases. Please keep in mind, these temporary credit card numbers should not be used for recurring transactions such as monthly bill payments or auto-renewals.
IX.) Avoid Public Wi-Fi. – It is very important to stay away from entering sensitive information into websites/online forms, etc. while using public Wi-Fi networks. Yes, they are convenient because they are free; however, cybercriminals can capture your login, passwords, credit cards, and bank account information whenever you are navigating using this “Free” service. Remember, free does not translate into secured. At home separate your Wi-Fi network, your kid’s network.
X.) Do Not Mix Business and Pleasure. – Consider dedicating a device; computer, tablet, etc. to conduct official/business transactions where you need to share sensitive information. Always type the exact URL in the web browser address bar. Make sure to install good antivirus/anti-malware software on this device to assist you in protecting your personal information. Only use a secure device for browsing thru the web. Use a separate device for general browsing, social media updates, etc.
It is imperative to safeguard your digital identity. Once it is compromised, it is very difficult to recover/protect.
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Published on June 19th. 2013, By Natasha Singer (The New York Times)