For you, me, and almost all of us, two major online footprints make us vulnerable. One is digital, the other is financial. Here are some tips on fixing them in the interests of ourselves and our families.

First, let’s deal with financial footprints. For the purposes of this article, I’m going to limit comments to a subtle yet widely used aspect of financial ‘foot-printing’: online subscriptions.

One sunny spring morning last year, I was working away on an article when Outlook’s little bell rang as yet another email arrived. Normally, I glance at the subject line and if it’s routine, let it go to the inbox for later attention.

On this occasion, the subject line read: Your Subscription Automatically Renewed and Received. Curious, I checked it out and found that the subscription was north of $250. Automatic? Renewed? Received? Yes, all of these.

I explored and discovered it was a legitimate transaction for my online backup service; but what hit me was that I had completely forgotten having ticked a box approving auto-renewal against my corporate credit card. So, I made a note to uncover how many other subscriptions I had automated … and then forgotten about.

Turns out I had seventeen on my corporate account (from information services to numerous ‘how-to’ resources); plus, a further six on my personal account (mostly magazine and news services). Total annual amounts for the combined subscriptions? Three thousand seven hundred and ninety-five dollars a year!

Not a king’s ransom, but not chicken feed either. The second thing that hit me was that I was only person in my family who actually knew these had been set up; So, if I wasn’t around to tell them, how would they know what they were and how to cancel them? Allow me to emphasise that, in many instances, cancelling subscriptions is a darn sight harder than signing up for them in the first place.

For this reason, we expanded the number of characters available in the Now Sorted’s ‘Notes’ sections (from 250 to 500) so that users could enter details of relevant subscriptions together with contact details. This is our solution to ensuring that subscriptions can be cancelled easily by ‘trusted others’ if we are not around to tell them.

The results will be thousands of dollars saved by ceasing subscriptions no longer required, together with existing users being able to sleep better at night knowing that the subscription footprint is resolved – and all within the one application.

Now to digital footprints. Several years ago, a close American friend died in Seattle. Every year since, a well-known social media outfit reminds me it’s his birthday… and I should send him a message. Simply ridiculous. Yet a fact of digital life… unless one does something about it.

On the ABC 7.30 program in 2015, lawyer Kimberley Martin stated, “Every day, 8,000 Facebook users die around the world.” It is estimated that records of some 30 million deceased are still on Facebook.

Extrapolate from these numbers across other social media platforms and it stuns the mind.

In the case of Facebook, help can be found in deleting incapacitated or deceased persons here.

We shall be writing more on social media identity issues in future; meantime we recommend that, first, our readers should determine whether they really need to be ‘present’ on many of the platforms now in existence. If not, they can visit the relevant sites and, usually, arrange for deletion through the ‘settings’ button.

Second, we recommend visiting a site featuring excellent items on protection for Australian social network users; it is the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner and you can reach it right here.

We live in an age whereby a great deal is known about us from the digital footprints we leave on the internet sand. These footprints are part of our digital estate – let’s start treading carefully in how we deal with them.

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