When I was younger I made quite a few online accounts without thinking about it. At that time, in the late 90s and 00s, online spaces were a bit of a novelty and security and footprints weren’t something I really considered.
I made a few different accounts both for personal use, such as MySpace and Facebook, and for assessment tasks while I was at university. Some of these accounts I continue to use today, while others are languishing in various states of neglect. The difficulty with these older accounts is that I don’t always recall their existance, which means it is very difficult to have a proper handle on my digital footprint.
Last year I had a mini crackdown on my digital footprint after I received an email to an old email account that I haven’t used since the 00s. I had forgotten it existed and that I had used it to register to various websites while at uni. At some stage it was set up to redirect into one that I do use. The email I received was regarding a blog I had kept as a part of an assessment task. After a 12 year gap, it had received a comment, and this had generated a notification email.
I read the blog post and had a very vague recollection of an assessment task from my first year at uni where I had to keep a reflective blog. It was a little unnerving to see the reflections of myself as a young, stressed first-year student laid bare and vulnerably public. While the content wasn’t particularly interesting to anyone but me, I still felt fortunate that the only one who had seen it was the random commenter-bot who had only stopped by to promote some useless thing before moving along. I recall having to make a few blogs for assessment tasks but there was little thought for what would become of them in the weeks and years after we had completed our subjects.
After a moment of brief amusement at the fact that most of my reflection was devoted to describing my procrastination as a uni student, I decided that I should delete the account. But, after going through the process of recovering the account I discovered that there is no way to delete yourself from that particular blogging website. A quick search revealed quite a few angry forum posts from other users who were vexed about being unable to delete their accounts, too. In the end, the best I could do was remove the posts and clear as much personal data from the account as possible.
This experience really hits home to me the ethical issues surrounding the use of blogs as assessment tasks at university. It is vitally important that in the process of asking students to create online identities for assessments, that they are made aware of their digital footprint, online security, as well as the risks and rewards around participating in online conversations and communities.
And in case you were wondering, I’m still a procrastinator. 🙂