Over the years, there are have been a number of individuals and groups who believe that physical rights equal digital rights. From the developed to the developing continents, these stakeholders want to be free. They want to pursue happiness in an atmosphere devoid of strict political control. They believe acting socially and politically enhance their pursuit of economic and social happiness in all ramifications. While behaving socially, economically and politically on various social networking sites, Internet-enabled gadgets they drop a significant number of traces, known as digital footprints, which is a trail of data created while using the sites and gadgets.
Our analyst had the opportunity to be among the people who participated a workshop on big data application in academic research organised by a Faculty at the Fountain University, Osogbo, Osun State. The event primarily expected to walk the students and Faculty Members in the University through the nitty-gritty of using big data in academic research towards collective value for the academia and industry turned into a forum where participants were informed of the implications of their digital footprints.
Professor Ayobami Ojebode of Department of Communication and Language Arts, University of Ibadan, shared his experience of the traces he left some years back, which were later used by a foreign based organisation that perused his application for a grant. According to him, people need to understand that as they use social networking sites, joining online pressure communities and using Internet-enabled devices, they should realise that someone in a particular location is gathering their traces [digital footprints].
While it is obvious that in the developed world, people are becoming more aware of their digital footprints, it could be said that in the developing countries such as Nigeria, people are yet to be fully aware of the implications of their digital traces. In the United States, for instance, a study shows that 60% of the people who search for their names actually find information about themselves online.
How would you know that someone has collected your digital footprints and acted on them? Our analyst suggests the use of Google Alert and Google Search, which are primarily free. Google Alert has the capacity of helping you in getting first hand information in real time when someone posted about. It also helps in documenting the traces in a cloud storage such as Google Drive and Dropbox. It is also important that you carry out ‘vanity search’ occasionally. The search is a means to understand what people and organisations are discussing and publishing about you. You only need to put the keywords that associated with your names and personality on Google Search Engine. For you to have sufficient understanding of what is happening, you must click beyond the first result page turned out by the search engine. At least, getting to the 10-page of the result pages, would give you deeper insights about your digital footprints.
However, as shared by Professor Ojebode, erasing one’s digital footprints immediately they are dropped might not be possible because the person who collected had used big data collection tools, which could not be received or deleted by the owner. In this regard, our analyst notes that people only need to be cautious of what they do in relation to their pursuit of social, economic and political happiness while on the SNSs and using internet-enabled devices.