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Online Privacy and Your Digital Footprint: Home

What could go wrong?

What could go wrong? Identity theft and just plain theft, flame wars and online bullying (or personal threats), doxxing, 'bots interfering with elections, reputations destroyed or jobs lost - these are just some of the kinds of damage that can happen when we lose privacy online. 

At the same time, most of us can't live "off the grid". The good news is that we can take steps to minimize risks online. The point is:

Why worry about privacy online?

The internet is:

  • Public - once a text that mentions you, or a picture of you, is posted online it is nearly impossible to keep it secret.
  • Persistent  - electronic records never disappear unless someone actively chooses to delete them.
  • Necessary and extremely useful - most of us have to use it for our work and in our daily lives.
  • Everywhere - even if we don't log online, digital records of our lives are collected by online purchases (credit cards, PayPal, online banking), through security cameras, by Fastrak transponders, etc.


  • Beyond our control - but we can take steps to manage our "digital footprints" and minimize risk.

Big Data

The San Jose Public Library explains that: 

"The key to managing privacy in the information age is understanding the current technology well enough to make informed choices about what information you share and who sees it. You don't have to be a computer expert ­­ everyone can learn some basic steps to better manage their privacy!"

Stay up to date

Technology changes rapidly - and privacy concerns change just as quickly. The following links are good sources of information to stay current on the latest tools and concerns: San Jose Public Library's Virtual Privacy Lab includes information in Spanish and Vietnamese; the American Library Association's Voices for Privacy blog gives weekly updates; and the Electronic Frontier Foundation's webpages cover a wide range of issues and concerns.