Safeguard your personal information and your digital footprint

Eighty-four percent of Americans feel a lot or a tremendous amount of responsibility to protect their personal information, according to the National Cyber Security Alliance. Chances are you’re one of them.

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It’s understandable. Information stored online paints a portrait of us. No one wants that portrait to be stolen, damaged or altered to misrepresent them. We’d all like to choose what information we share, and with whom we share it. Unfortunately, that’s not always easy in today’s digital world.

Websites and apps collect and combine tiny bits of seemingly harmless information to ascertain things like our health, aspirations, interests, values and behaviors.

So how can you keep some control over your personal information in this day and age?

Privacy policies, privacy tips

A privacy policy is a statement that informs customers how a company gathers, uses, discloses and manages the data of its customers and clients. If you or your children are accepting these policies without too much thought, you should take a closer look.

The National Cyber Security Alliance has an entire library of useful privacy resources. One of the most helpful resources is a slide show called “The Fine Print of Privacy,” created by the Zero Knowledge Privacy Foundation, which promotes online privacy. A fast read, it explains what privacy policies are and whether they really protect you (the answer, unfortunately, is not always).

Check your privacy settings

If you’d like to view or change the privacy settings for your online device or service but don’t know where to find them, here are easy instructions.

Manage your digital footprint

This is becoming more and more important. There are steps you can take to protect your reputation, prevent financial loss and maintain your online freedom. A recent article published by the Internet Society looks at how and where we leave digital footprints. It includes nine video tutorials on taking control of your online identity.

Protect your online reputation

A strong, positive online presence will help with job searches and college applications. A negative presence has the opposite effect; 70 percent of U.S. hiring managers reject candidates based on what they find on social media, Microsoft research shows. What you post will be around for a long time. Think ahead and evaluate if what you’re thinking of posting today is what you will want people to know about you in the future.

Don’t leave your cellphone unlocked

More than 4 million cellphones were lost or stolen last year. If yours is among those that vanish this year, leaving it unlocked will enable the finder or thief to access your personal information. Privacy advocates urge you to set a lock code.

Use strong passwords
Weak passwords make privacy breaches more likely. Security experts bemoan the fact that the most common password used in 2014 was “123456.” Use a combination of letters, numbers and special characters. Avoid the names of pets, spouses and kids you may have mentioned online. F-Secure, a company that produces security products for digital devices, offers these tips for creating strong but memorable passwords.

Give the kids something to think about

If you think you know what you need to know about protecting your online footprint, take this quiz. Better still, have your kids take it! It could get them thinking about protecting their online brand now, before they have regrets.

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