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Who's been using my phone?

Photo Courtesy of Chris Isherwood

The digital world has a very good memory. Thus, recovering a damaged reputation online is a very difficult task. Additionally, personal references are becoming less and less relevant. Why ask another individual about someone in particular, if I can get first hand information by just googling the name of the person in question? Whether we are applying for a new job or a scholarship, search engines can be our enemies if we have not been careful with our actions on the web. Therefore, we must be acutely aware of the digital footprint that we are continuously leaving behind. Luckily, there are some techniques that help us improve our online presence and can help prevent unwanted situations from occurring in the future.

How do you assess your current situation? Easy: just Google yourself! But don’t just Google your name on the Web tab, you also need to look through the images and news. It is important to perform a thorough analysis, examining which sites are currently storing information about us, along with the date and context in which this information is published.

Often we think that a comment on a social network cannot cause much damage that everything can be fixed by simply removing or editing inappropriate content. However, once something has been posted online it becomes susceptible to reproduction, even if it was online for a limited amount of time. For instance, any of your friends or followers on any social media can easily copy/paste or screenshot any of your online activity. Another case in which we must be extremely careful is when we participate in a discussion forum or in the comments section of a newspaper article using our own name or while logged in one of our social networks. Some social media and online forums are well indexed in Google, making whatever comment we write on them readily searchable, which would be clearly prejudicial.

It is also important to remove the accounts of those social networks or websites we used at a certain point in our lives but we have now shelved. Some not very prestigious websites like Badoo are very well indexed within search engines, and it is unlikely that future employers would be impressed with the kind of information we tend to share on sites like that. Another useful and effective practice that depends exclusively on our own willing is to constantly monitor the privacy settings of the social networks we use. Facebook, Twitter and other big social media sites tend to change their privacy policies frequently, which may substantially vary the degree of confidentiality of the information we share.

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