How Your Privacy (Or Lack Thereof!) Affects Your Digital Identity


For the past 15 years, the National Cyber Security Alliance and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security recognize the month of October as National Cyber Security Awareness Month. As an Internet-connected student, it’s important to remember that everything you do or share online, can in some way, be used against you. In an attempt to help prospective students and upcoming graduates create an authentic online reputation, we’re discussing how your digital identity can make a difference when applying to a school, internship, or future career.

Digital Identity? What Is It?

As touched on above, your digital identity is the stored data, traffic, and devices you use to access the Internet. Using identifiers such as your name in a Google search, an individual or organization could see your social activity, personal character traits, and digital reputation. Everything from usernames and search history, to online comments and social profiles, can show both positive and negative content. If left unattended, your digital identity and resulting digital reputation could impact the decision-making process of an administrator.

3 Steps to Managing Your Digital Identity

Step 1: Google Your Name

Start by Googling your first and last name. If you have a common name, try including your middle initial and the state you live in. You’re looking for any websites, social profiles, news outlets, or other pages that mention you by name, or link to your content (ex. images, comments, posts, etc.) After reviewing those sources, it’s important to assess the value, credibility, and authenticity of the information they portray before moving forward.

Step 2: Understand Your Digital Footprints

As you use the Internet, you’re leaving a trail of activity called digital footprints. Much like your browser history, they represent your “active” cyberspace interactions, including your social profiles, comments, and posts. However, you are also sharing information passively, and could go unnoticed. Not all websites will ask for permission or disclose that they are collecting data or sharing cookies. In some cases, it’s possible the web host could be sharing malware or using phishing techniques to steal your identity information. To combat this, you should consider using a Virtual Private Network or VPN. However, if you don’t have access to a VPN, browse and share safely, delete your history, and enable the advanced security and privacy settings on your device and browser.

Step 3: Manage Your Online Presence

Now that you understand what you have been leaving behind, it’s time to start actively managing your online presence in order to portray a more authentic insight into your goals and achievements.

  • Enable advanced security and privacy settings on devices, browsers, and social profiles- disable cookies and geotagging
  • Update devices and software regularly
  • Delete browsing history, autofill, and cookies stored on browsers and devices
  • Delete unfavorable content, social accounts or profiles, and conversations or posts that show a biased opinion
  • Create a personal website to share positive achievements, accomplishments, and insights
  • Set up a Google Alert to notify you when you’re mentioned online

A poor digital identity can have a major impact on your credibility, especially when advancing your education and personal development.

Why Your Online Reputation Matters

As a prospective high school student applying for admission, it’s essential to have your online reputation established before applying to schools.

  1. College Administrators Google your name, check your social profiles, and read your comments. Before applying, delete anything you shared online that may be deemed inappropriate, immature, or unfavorable to the institution.
  2. College Administrators are looking for a consistent digital identity. Set yourself apart by creating a personal website that highlights your accomplishments and achievements. Share your website with admissions and encourage them to learn more about you through interaction with your web and social presence.
  3. Remember colleges want to see how you’ll benefit their community. Engage with their social channels, talk about what clubs you’d join, classes you’d take, and school activities you’re excited for.

Keep Your Personal “Brand” Clean

Not only does your digital identity need to tell your personal story in an accurate and authentic manner; it also needs to be clean and compelling. A messy, unprofessional digital identity can negatively impact an admission decision whereas an honest, authentic brand is more likely to be viewed positively.

Now that you have put a lot into polishing your digital reputation, you need to devote an equal or greater amount of time and energy to protecting it—and not just during CyberSecurity month!

Be sure you map and implement a year-round cybersecurity awareness plan to protect yourself from everyday threats. Explore more ways Unigo can help you spot scams and protect yourself from fraud—and more.



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