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Online Safety & Security

In this section we will look at Online Security, Online Safety, Radicalisation and Extremism

Your Digital Footprint

If you post abuse about anyone else online or if you send threats, you can be traced by the police without any difficulty. Every time you visit a website or make a posting your internet service provider, be it Sky, BT or Virgin, has an electronic note of your activity. Even if you create an anonymous email address like Gmail, Hotmail or Yahoo, you can still be traced.

A digital footprint is data that is left behind when users have been online. There are two types of digital footprints which are known as passive and active. A passive footprint is made when information is collected from the user without the person knowing this is happening. An active digital footprint is where the user has deliberately shared information about themselves either by using social media sites or by using websites.

An example of a passive digital footprint would be where a user has been online and information has been stored on an online database. This can include where they came from, when the footprint was created and a user IP address. A footprint can also be analysed offline and can be stored in files which an administrator can access. These would include information on what that machine might have been used for, but not who had performed the actions.

An example of an active digital footprint is where a user might have logged into a site when editing or making comments such as on an online forum or a social media site. The registered name or profile can be linked to the posts that have been made and it is surprisingly easy to find out a lot about a person from the trails you leave behind.

Web browsing and digital footprints

The digital footprint we leave after browsing websites is called the internet footprint. These are commonly called “cookies” and most websites will ask you to accept the use of cookies before you can access the site, without actually knowing what this means. If we inadvertently leave a lot of information about ourselves behind it could be passively or actively collected by other people just by using a simple search engine.   Digital footprints can also be used by the police to gather information about individuals to help them with their enquiries.

Social networking sites can also give a very good idea of an individual’s life. These sites can allow digital tracing data which can include what social groups they belong to, their interests, location etc. This data can be gathered and analysed without the users being aware that this is happening.

A lot of employers will also use social media to vet prospective employees so it is important that you are mindful as to what you post on any such sites. Of course there is no limit as to how far you can go back in time on social media sites and once something is posted, there is no way of removing it completely. Others might have commented or shared your posts and this in turn will create their own digital footprint. This is something that you may wish to consider carefully before posting and sharing.  Consider what might happen to that information and what the repercussions may be for you in the future.

So how much privacy do we really have?

Digital footprints including the meta data and content does impact on security, privacy and trust. As the internet becomes bigger and bigger it is becoming increasingly important to think about what might happen to the ownership of the photos that you own and content that you write. Remember that what goes on the internet normally stays there even if you do delete posts there will be a trail of data that you have left behind.