You can’t avoid having an information footprint by not going online
You Can’t Escape
Even if you’re not actively using the Internet, someone else may be sharing information about you — intentionally or unintentionally. So, avoiding the Internet does not guarantee privacy.
Share what you’ve learned on this site with your friends and family — it will improve your own online privacy.
How It Works:
In today’s society, nearly every life activity, big or small, produces information that is stored and shared with somebody else: walking in front of a store’s security camera, using a smart card to pay for transit or parking, strolling around with a cell phone in your pocket, even just turning on the light or drinking from a faucet… (After all, your electricity and water use are metered by utility companies.)
You just can’t avoid generating an information footprint (see: You’re Leaving Footprints). More and more information from our lives is moving online as companies, institutions, organizations, and governments post and share the information they’ve collected about individuals (often with benign intent, like employee or member directories). (See: Search Is Improving.) Furthermore, others who are actively online may post information about you, either intentionally or inadvertently. People you know may refer to you in their posts or tag you in photos. And even if they don’t mean to broadcast information about you publically, your friends and family can lose control of data they store or share online (see: Sharing Releases Control).
Finally, multimedia content often contains more information about other people than the producer intends it to, through background noise and visuals or through contextual artifacts. For example, a photo that is meant to show an animal at the zoo may also accidentally capture a person visible in the background, or a video intentionally posted of a sleeping baby could accidentally reveal her pulse via subtle skin color changes. Forensics experts have been making use of this type of unintentional information to solve serious crime cases for years.
What Could Happen? Real-World Stories:
What You Can Do About It:
Communicate About Preferences:
- Get consent from others before sharing information about them, for example, from your friend you took a photo of — and from anyone else identifiable in the background.
- Talk to your friends and family members who use social media about your preferences if you don’t want them to post about you, or only want them to post certain types of information. (But realize they might still do it anyway!)
Use Your Imagination:
- Assume that your family members and close friends are sharing information about you.
Get the Facts:
- Search for yourself regularly to see what others can find out about you.
How to Better Control Your Privacy — Guides:
Where to Learn More — Related Resources and Educational Tools:
What Do You Think? Discussion Questions:
- If you don’t actively use the Internet, does that mean you’re not on the Internet?
- At what age does someone first start to have an Internet presence or an information footprint?
- What types of records and information about you are online and freely searchable in public databases?
- What types of information about you are being collected by private companies, and searchable for a fee?
- What information do institutions (like your bank, your school, or businesses you use) have about you? Is that information “hackable” — can people break into a database and get access to it?
- What information is your debit or credit card leaking about you? What information are the items in your house leaking about you?
- Do your parents post about you online? What do you think about that?
- Have you ever had a family member or friend post something online about you that you wished they hadn’t? If so, what did you do about it?
- Do your friends and family know what things it’s okay to post about you? How would you start a conversation about that?
- Do you know what’s okay with your friends and family to post about them?
- In general, how do you decide what’s appropriate to post about other people?