Criminal Minds is one of my favourite television shows. In the show, the character of Penelope Garcia uses her technological skills and access privileges to collect reams of personal data on victims and suspects of crimes being investigated. This week as I read through information about creating and managing our digital footprints, I found myself wondering what information Penelope Garcia would be able to dig up on me.
Whether intentionally or not, our actions and the actions of others are leaving a trail of crumbs that make up our digital identities. This happens when we post photos, opinions and ideas using various Web 2.0 applications. It happens when sign up for accounts and make purchases both online and off. It happens when we use email and send text messages to our friends.
When I ‘Google’ myself, I am able to find a few tidbits of information, mostly web tool accounts pertaining only to my online learning during the past few months. I see myself more as what Kligiene (2011) calls a ‘digital tourist, who doesn’t really participate often in social media or online consumer behaviors. Sure, I have a Facebook account and do some banking online, but I try to refrain from (or am simply not interested in) significant online activities, so I haven’t been too concerned about my digital footprint.
Perhaps I am being naïve. Weaver and Gahegan (2007) describe average individuals who “enjoy the benefits of new technology without giving much consideration of or appreciation for the social and ethical tradeoffs,” of surveillance and location aware technologies. (p. 327) Should I be more concerned about my daily offline activities, which also contribute to my digital footprint? Should I, as Richardson (2008) suggests, be worried that a Google search doesn’t yield any substantial results? Should I take more action to shape my digital persona and protect my personal information?
One thing seems certain – there is a great deal to consider when reflecting on your digital footprint. As teachers, we need to do our part to guide students in making safe and responsible choices when leaving their mark in the digital world.
Kligienė, S. (2012). Digital footprints in the context of professional ethics. Informatics In Education, 11(1), 65-79.
Richardson, W. (2008). Footprints in the digital age. Educational Leadership, 66(3), 16-19.
Weaver, S. D., & Gahegan, M. (2007). Constructing, visualizing and analyzing a digital footprint. Geographical Review, 97(3), 324-350.