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Everything you do online leaves a trail of data that employers, and potential employers, can access. As we spend more and more time online, it is important to consider what conclusions your digital footprint can lead people to make. So what should you be aware of? There are two main types of traceable data: active and passive. Your active footprint is a record of data that you submit intentionally. This can range from emails and social media posts, to online surveys and e-petitions. Every comment, photo and video you post is stored online. Your passive footprint is made up of the data that you unintentionally, or even unknowingly, leave online. This can be stored via cookies and search engine history. Where is it stored? Unfortunately, there isn’t one big ‘online warehouse’ where you can find everything in one place. Your footprint is stored in different ways, according to the type of data. For example, social media sites record the activities of their users over time, in something called a ‘life stream’. Passive data can be stored in a number of ways such as online databases (also known as ‘hits’) or offline files. Who is looking at it? Really, anyone who wants to. Marketers will use data from your search history, cookies and websites you have visited, even your social media likes, to determine what you’re interested in and what you might like to buy. This is the way in which Facebook Ads work – if a marketer creates and advert for their product, they can target you based on information such as your age, gender, online behaviour, location and previous ads that you may have clicked on. Job recruiters will quite often use digital footprints to find out more about potential employees in a process called ‘cyber vetting’, whereby they research an applicant’s online history to determine their suitability. This can extend far further than just looking at your Instagram photos, however. Recruiters are now using specialist companies that can investigate what petitions you have signed and your online shopping habits. So what can you do? There are a number of ways that you can improve, and protect, your online presence. View our handy guide to improving your digital footprint.
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