How to Protect Your Digital Footprint?

Reading time: 7 min read
Lorie Tonogbanua
Written by
Lorie Tonogbanua

Updated · Nov 17, 2023

Lorie Tonogbanua
Joined June 2023 | LinkedIn
Lorie Tonogbanua

Lorie is an English Language and Literature graduate passionate about writing, research, and learnin... | See full bio

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Staying completely anonymous in this digital age is nearly impossible. Every time you do an online activity, you leave a digital trail of information. This digital trail is your digital footprint

Your digital footprint holds a lot of personal preferences and information about you, from your spending patterns to intimate life events. The internet's infinite capacity to trace this information makes you vulnerable to data breaches. Protecting your digital footprint is essential to ensure your online security and privacy. 

In this article, you will learn about ways to protect your digital footprint, the consequences of not protecting it, and whether having a digital footprint is considered harmful.

🔑 Key Takeaways:

  • Digital footprints are the trails of information you leave behind whenever you do something online. This information is essential and should be protected from cybercriminals to prevent harm.
  • The creation of your digital footprint can be intentional or unintentional. Third parties interested in your digital trails can collect them actively or passively.
  • Completely deleting your digital footprint is impossible. However, there are ways to manage and reduce the information publicly available about you.
  • Adjusting privacy settings, creating a Google Alert for your name, and deleting old accounts and apps minimize your digital footprints effectively.
  • While digital footprints help you create a positive online reputation, protecting it should be prioritized. 

Protecting Your Digital Footprint

Digital footprint sources come in many forms, for example, posting on social media, shopping online, receiving emails, IP addresses, etc. There are different types of digital footprints. 

The two main types are passive and active.

1. Active digital footprint - This includes your social media posts and every other  information you consciously publish or accept online, such as:

  • Cache and cookies
  • Hotel reservations
  • Newsletter subscriptions

2. Passive digital footprint - Refers to data being collected that you may not be aware of, such as:

  • IP address
  • Geographical location
  • Links you click on
  • Time spent on a website

The information you leave whenever you interact on the internet creates your digital footprint, intentionally or unintentionally. Third parties are always ready to passively or actively collect that information.

💡 Did You Know?

A single data breach can create a ripple of breaches in your other accounts, exposing your personal information, such as names, passwords, and email addresses.

While erasing your digital footprint is nearly impossible, you can manage it effectively to protect your trail. There are many ways to protect your digital footprint from different cyberattacks

Here are 9 ways you can protect your digital footprint. 

9 Ways to Protect Your Digital Footprint

Take a closer look at how the different ways to protect your digital trail work:

1. Think Before You Click

Everything you post online will stay online. Avoid sharing personally identifiable information (PII) like your email address, phone number, IDs, and bank information on social media.

2. Adjust Your Privacy Settings

Most platforms' default settings make your online presence public. Adjust your privacy settings, especially on social media platforms, to control what you can share for collecting, using, and disclosing your information.

Some websites also harvest your personal information by gathering publicly available data from government records. Thankfully, there are several ways to remove or at least minimize your records on the internet.

3. Create A Google Alert For Your Name

Google Alerts sends email notifications to subscribers that compile information on search activity related to subscribed terms. Although this option will increase your footprint with Google, you can use this platform to alert yourself whenever your name appears online so that you can delete unwanted ones made by other people. 

4. Avoid Using Public WiFi

Cybercriminals can steal sensitive information from unsecured networks like public Wi-Fi. Use a VPN (virtual private network) to secure your connection and location and block different malware and phishing attacks.

5. Avoid Single-Account Sign-Ins

Avoid using single-account sign-ins. This is because when hackers can infiltrate one account for multiple accounts, they can access all.

6. Delete Old Accounts And Apps

If you no longer use a platform, delete your account because it contains your personal information. Cybercriminals can use outdated apps and exploit them to commit fraud and scams.

7. Update Your Software

Updates can enhance software functionality and reduce security vulnerabilities. An outdated system and devices leave you vulnerable to hackers, who can exploit your information and use it for illegal activities. The next time your devices and software require an update, don't skip it.

8. Get An Identity Protection Service

In 2021, identity fraud affected roughly 42 million Americans. This shows that you should get an identity protection service that safeguards against identity theft and data breaches. It also monitors potential sales or unauthorized use of your PII and allows you to shut down any attack.

9. Disable Cookies

Disabling cookies will give you fewer target ads, but website owners and third parties cannot track your online activities. However, some websites will also not work if you deny cookies. When asked, decline cookies or use a browser that automatically blocks them.

It is vital to be proactive in protecting your digital footprint. People with malicious intent can use your email address or phone number to look you up in people's search engines for the wrong purposes.

Your online privacy could be compromised if a malicious actor could get your information through your digital footprints. Read more to learn the different dangers if digital footprints are not protected. 

🎉 Fun Fact:

It would take roughly 181 million years to download all data from the internet! This shows how congested the platform is with the digital footprints it has collected over time.

Potential Dangers if Your Digital Footprint is Not Protected

If you’re not careful with your digital footprint, you could be in danger and become a victim of identity theft or fraud.

Here’s how your digital footprint can take a toll on you.

  1. Old posts, videos, and pictures can hurt your reputation when misinterpreted. Your digital reputation comprises everything you say and do online and what others publish about you.
  2. Money lenders do background checks to know whether you can repay your loan on time, including checking your online information. Because of this, you might not get approved for a loan.
  3. Your potential employers can also access your information, which could hurt your employment. Your social media activity strongly contributes to whether you get accepted or not.
  4. Having your email address and phone number plastered online invites more spam emails and phone calls. With around 5,000 data broker companies globally, your publicly shared information can easily be bought and sold.
  5. Cybercriminals may use your personal information for identity theft, financial fraud, extortion, phishing, or cyberbullying through data breaches or when you disclose it online.

Not managing your digital footprint can have disadvantages. Even so, there are also positive impacts of having a digital footprint. 

Is Having A Digital Footprint Considered Bad?

Your digital footprint matters. Having digital footprints is not harmful when managed well. It creates a positive online reputation and increases visibility. 

Here are some benefits of digital footprints:

  1. With around 4.89 billion social media users worldwide, businesses find it relevant to increase visibility online to attract consumers.
  2. When your business has a positive digital footprint, it can create a credible online identity for potential customers and new opportunities.

It is important to remember that before you post anything, you should always think about how it will affect your digital reputation. 


Your online activities cannot be erased; be careful with everything you post. 

Wrapping Up

Leaving your digital footprints can help create a more personalized and convenient online experience. However, cybercriminals can use your digital footprints for malicious reasons like identity theft, invasion of privacy, phishing, and other scams against you. 

Knowing the best practices to protect yourself will help you avoid being vulnerable to cyberattacks.


Can I erase my online footprint?

Not entirely, but you can limit your online presence or use tools that will help lessen your digital footprint.

How does your digital footprint affect you?

Your digital footprint can have long-lasting positive and negative effects on your employment, reputation, and relationships.

How do I know if I have a digital footprint?

By using the internet, you automatically create a digital footprint. To know the information publicly available about you, go to any search engine, type your full name, and press search. The search results indicate what information is available about you online.


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