When I wake up in the morning, I turn off my alarm clock, but I don’t use a radio app. I use the alarm function on my phone. I never use services like Spotify or Pandora, rather I just play downloaded music on my computer. I would say that my digital footprint is smaller than others in my age group because I don’t make the Internet the center of my life. I get kindle books online, but I don’t buy clothes online. I use my computer mostly for school, email and to read the news. My worries about my digital footprint are mostly about the real people who see what I do on the Internet.
In recent years many potential employers have turned to the Internet to track down potential candidates. There are many things I have done on the Internet that I would rather not companies to see. For example, when I was in 9th grade I had a really stupid video blog, which talked about absolutely nothing. It made no sense, and it wouldn’t show me in a positive light. Another example is the fact that I participate in radical political conversations on the Internet, especially those involving race, privilege and gender identity/expression. I wouldn’t want potential employers to be turned off by my sometimes very liberal views.
The Huffington Post posted an info graphic on this in 2011 to show how employers hire and fire their employees with Facebook and other social networks. The article does point out that this can be positive. “Indeed, 18 percent of employers have found information that has actually facilitated their decision to hire a job applicant.” Still, in my case I don’t think many of the things they would find would be in my favor. This is a part of my digital footprint that I am self-conscious about.
There is an upside to this for your shopping habits though. When companies know more about what you buy and what you don’t, they can have a more direct approach with what their marketing is. I buy a lot of stuff from the makeup chain Sephora. They know what I do on other websites, and what I buy from their website. Because of the combination of these two things they know a lot about me. They know my birthday, my age, my gender, where I live, and so much more. Therefore, when I get to their landing page, I see things that I would be interested in buying as a 19 year old male from New York City. I can see new events in my neighborhood, giftcards and specials that I might buy for a family member or friend. There are so many advantages to this. You can get what you need faster, and more efficiently. You can adjust your habits to make your shopping experience better. There are endless possibilities.
However, sometimes this can be too intrusive. For example, the giant retailer Target had a problem where they were sending expectant teenage mothers postcards about their pregnancy before their family knew. In an article from Forbes, it is explored why this could happen and what it means about our lives as consumers. “Target assigns every customer a Guest ID number, tied to their credit card, name, or email address that becomes a bucket that stores a history of everything they’ve bought and any demographic information Target has collected from them or bought from other sources. Using that, Pole looked at historical buying data for all the ladies who had signed up for Target baby registries in the past.” This might seem a little scary to you, and I admit it was frightening to me at first too, but this is the way the Internet works now. You shouldn’t be as afraid of the NSA as you should be of the companies that want to sell you things. Your information is just a way of getting you to spend more money and give over more of your life to corporations.
To me, it really doesn’t matter. I know that this is the way the Internet works right now and if I didn’t want my information to be shared I would have to avoid using the Internet all together. So I do what I can to downsize my information sharing, but I know that information will get out there no matter what I do.