When online, it is critical to be a smart and safe surfer. We are too familiar with the directives reiterated by InfoSec professionals: don’t use short passwords, don’t use credit cards in insecure Wi-Fi locations, don’t leave laptops unattended, don’t leave confidential documents open on your screen when you leave your desk, etc., etc., etc. Most of the discussion centers on hacking into and stealing your most sensitive information for fraudulent purposes. But there is another issue that doesn’t get much attention: the issue of assuring the accuracy of your digital footprint.
According to Wikipedia, a “digital footprint” is defined as the “trail left by an entity’s interactions in a digital environment including its usage of TV, mobile phone, Internet, mobile web, and other devices…A digital footprint may include the recording of activities such as system login and logouts, visits to a web page, accessed or created files, or emails and chat messages. Social networking sites record activities of individuals, and this usage of social media and roaming services captures data that includes interests, social groups, behaviors, and locations. This data can be gathered and analyzed without a user’s awareness.”
There are concerns about cyber squatting, when people reserve your personal or company name and either hold it for ransom (translation: they demand an exorbitant amount of money to sell the URL) or they prefer to hold onto the URL and not sell it all, or worse, they create an inappropriate site. Think of that other site too similar to that of the White House (correct site is www.whitehouse.gov).
I had a negative experience regarding my digital footprint recently. A company outside of the United States created a Twitter account that was similar to mine, so I wrote to Twitter and explained the situation. Twitter responded within 48 hours, but, according to Twitter, it was determined that the impersonating account was "not in violation" of Twitter’s Impersonation Policy. Twitter went further and explained “In general, adding numbers, underscores, or abbreviations can help you secure a great username.” But, really, how many of us were given underscores as part of our names when we were born?
My Twitter account is @Tips4Tech, and the “other” account was @tips4tech_blog. Since I have a blog (http://tips4tech.wordpress.com), I believe that the other Twitter account was too similar. I wonder if Ashton Kutcher complained about a similar account name, would Twitter immediately get involved and cancel the violating account on his behalf?
As you can see, it is critical to reserve your personal name and company/brand name – and all similar permutations you can think of – on all major social media sites. That way, you won’t have to worry about being surprised about a URL slightly resembling your official URL's. Then, it might be too late to take action. So, closely monitor your digital footprint and visit these sites to check your name or brand online:  http://knowem.com or  http://namechk.com.