In this lesson you will learn to keep your personal details safe online so you can safely use the internet to search, post and shop. If you haven’t already, we suggest you take our first two modules on 'Understanding online information' first. These are ‘Finding information online’ and ‘Saving and accessing documents’.


  • Understand what personal data is and why it’s important.
  • Feel more confident in protecting your personal details.

Read time

4 mins

What is personal data

Your personal data is every single fact there is about you.

It can be really personal, like your health records. It could be trivial like your favourite colour or the films you like to watch.


Personal data can include:

  • Your personal details – Like birthday, address and bank account details
  • Your pictures
  • Your videos
  • Your habits – Such as what you like to do, what you like to listen to
  • Your goals – This can be losing weight, reading books, finding a job


Why you should keep this safe

It might seem obvious that some of these details are valuable and need to be protected. For example, your bank account details. These could be used to steal your money and so you should protect them.

What is less obvious is that all your information is valuable and needs to be protected.


People offline and online can use your data to:

  • Steal money
  • Take out financial products in your name
  • Find out where you live and when you’re on holiday so they can steal your physical goods
  • Bribe you
  • See if you’re a good candidate for a job
  • To create tailored advertisements that can tempt you to buy more


What is a digital footprint?

Your digital footprint is the sum of everything you or other people post about you online at any point in your life. It creates a picture of who you are to anyone who might access it. You need to take care of your digital footprint itself. Think – how do I want to be seen online – by employers, by my friends and families, by companies and by strangers?

For example, if you or a friend posts a picture of you online, you need to ask yourself if that picture is something you would be happy for a potential future employer to see. Sometimes employers will search for your name online before hiring you, so you should always think before you post and check your privacy settings.

It’s not just pictures that matter. It can be words and actions too. What you say and do online all become a permanent record of you that can be seen by anyone who searches for it hard enough. So, it’s important you think before you put your information or words online. You can also change your settings to make sure that the information you do post is only visible to the people you want it to be.

Again, if you feel worried about keeping safe online, we recommend you take our lesson Introduction to online safety next. There will be links at the end of this lesson.

You control your data

Another good thing about your personal information online, is that you have a lot of control. Not just over what you post and who your share it with, but also over what companies have your data and what they do with it.

Sometimes, sharing your data with a company can be a benefit. They can use it to improve the experience you have with them. They can remember how you want to be treated, what you like to do and the kinds of products you want to use. This is not always the case.

When you want to know what data a company has on you, you can almost always request it. This is a right protected by data rules. All you need to do is write to the company and ask to see what data they have on you. This is what is called a ‘subject access request’ (SAR). Once you send this, they usually have just one month to respond. It’s also usually free unless you’re asking for a large amount of information or something that will take a long time to find.

If this is something you want to know more about, we recommend you take a look at the Information Commissioner’s Office pages on accessing and deleting your data.


Sharing other people’s data

As well as your own data, you have a duty to look after other people’s. You can’t share people’s data unless they say so. So, make sure you always ask for people's permission before you post their pictures or share their information. You are contributing to their digital footprint too.


Using other people’s documents

In the same way, you also need to take care using other people’s work. People’s files, images and content are as much their property as their physical belongings. Just like you wouldn’t borrow or steal their things, you should take care when sharing or using other people’s files. Always check whether you need to ask for or buy permission to use something if you are unsure.


Module complete!

Well done on completing this lesson! You should now know how to keep your personal details safe online. We suggest you keep your learning going with our 'Using services online' lessons. First up for you is 'Introduction to using online services'. It will help you see the benefits of using services online. It will also give you an idea of the kinds of services you can use. From shopping for food online, to booking travel and paying your bills.


Up next for you:

Next module: Introduction to online services

Back to: Understanding online information

Scottish Widows Be Money Well is committed to providing information in a way that is accessible and useful for our users. This information, however, is not in any way intended to amount to authority or advice on which reliance should be placed. You should seek professional advice as appropriate and required. Any sites, products or services named in this module are just examples of what's available. Scottish Widows does not endorse the services they provide. The information in this module was last updated on 31st Oct 2022.