What Is a Digital Footprint? Explained in Under 5 Minutes

Reading time: 9 min read
Maxym Chekalov
Written by
Maxym Chekalov

Updated · Aug 17, 2023

Maxym Chekalov
SEO Specialist | Joined June 2023 | LinkedIn
Maxym Chekalov

With a master's degree in telecommunications and over 15 years of working experience in telecommunic... | See full bio

Edited by


Joined November 2021
Perry Toone
Reviewed by
Perry Toone


Perry Toone
Founder of Thexyz inc | Joined August 2023 | LinkedIn
Perry Toone

As the guiding force behind Thexyz's global operations, Perry Toone is a champion of customer-centri... | See full bio

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The vast majority of the businesses you deal with secretly compile data about you. Data brokers and hackers may piece information stored on websites to form a person's "digital footprint."

The digital footprint is irreversible, leaving little control over its use or access. Online activities like tweeting, cookies, and sharing private information create a larger footprint. 

This is potentially accessible to future employers, educational institutions, and hackers. It might sound scary, but it's a fact in this digital age. 

Learn more about your digital footprint and how it affects your online identity.

🔑Key Takeaways: 

  • A person's online behaviors, such as social media usage, app interactions, and website visits, leave a digital trail.
  • Your digital footprint—a collection of active and passive behaviors—impacts your online persona.
  • Your digital traces are visible to employers, colleges, and hackers, so privacy protection is crucial.
  • Think twice before posting anything online because your digital footprint can damage your reputation and credibility for a long time.
  • Close unused accounts, use strong passwords, and look out for hacking efforts to protect your online identity.
  • You cannot completely erase a digital imprint, so be careful with your online behavior.
  • To stop cyber criminals, maintaining internet safety necessitates ongoing monitoring and supervision.

Digital Footprint: Understanding Your Online Trail

Your online presence, sometimes called your digital footprint, electronic trail, or online breadcrumbs, refers to the data trail you create while using the internet.

Your digital footprint results from every online action, such as visiting websites and sending emails. You can learn more about someone's internet and device usage by looking at their digital footprint.

Every online activity leaves a trace, especially if you picture the digital world as a vast, snowy landscape. However, many variables, like your internet usage habits, frequency of use, and the nature of your online activity, affect how visible your digital footprint is.

The following sections will go through various digital footprints to better understand how they develop.

Types of Digital Footprint

Digital footprints are divided into active and passive digital footprints, which differ in informed consent.

Here's what it means:

Active Digital Footprint 

Active digital trails are data or information a person intentionally leaves. They are aware of the data they leave behind because they chose to share so.

This could be a post on social media or a phone call. In both cases, they know that they leave a data trail.

Passive Digital Footprint

Passive digital footprints are data a person unknowingly leaves on the internet. Visits on websites, searches, and online sales are all examples of online activities that add passive data tracks to a person's digital footprint. 

They are harder to track and handle because they can be collected without user permission. It's called "footprinting," when a hacker gathers information about a specific system.

Now that the difference is clear, examining real-life examples provides a better understanding of digital footprints. It helps visualize their implications.

Digital Footprint Example

Social media platforms like Snapchat, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram leave digital traces. At the same time, online forms and cookies are common examples. Enabling cookies on devices can also be a common practice.

It is simple to spot them. Any search engine, such as Google, Yahoo, or Bing, will enable you to do this — you must execute a self-search.

👍 Helpful Article: Google is an expansive platform that offers email accounts, photos, and more. Despite this, they collect countless pieces of information from their users. Know more by reading TechJury’s article, What Does Google Know About Me? Project Invisibility.

Still, it's not uncommon for people to accumulate hundreds of items in their digital footprint. 

The reasons behind this are explored in six categories: 

  • Shopping
  • Financial
  • Phone apps
  • Visited sites
  • Search history
  • Social interactions.

Get to know by scrolling below
          1. Social Media Profiles and Activities

Instagram feed on a smartphoneSource: Canva

Through excessive social media use, personal information becomes easily accessible.  Leaving digital footprints by

  • Connecting with friends 
  • Dating app activity 
  • Sharing data, photos, and videos
  • Using social media credentials on other sites

    2. Online Shopping Platforms and Apps

Mobile online shopping Source: Canva

Shopping online leaves countless digital data. Your digital footprint grows from every app login, ad click, and more.

When you shop online through websites or apps, you leave a digital trail such as the following: 

  • Making purchases
  • Creating an account
  • Using shopping apps
  • Signing up for newsletters

    3. Online and Mobile Banking Apps and Websites

Mobile banking

Source: Canva

Each banking action willingly shares information, actively shaping your digital footprint. 

Your finances can also be used to keep track of what you do. This shows the bank accounts you've used, the deals you've made with your credit card, and how much money you've put into your account.

Your digital trail is exposed when you do the following:

  • Using a mobile banking app
  • Buying or selling stocks
  • Subscribing to financial publications and blogs
  • Opening a credit card account

    4. Digital Trail on Websites and Platforms

News website visits Source: Canva

Web browsers exchange data with websites for a personalized experience, but this can be exploited.

Some of the ways that people add to their digital trail are:

  • Subscribing to news sources
  • Viewing articles on apps
  • Signing up for newsletters
  • Reposting articles and information.

    5. Smartphone Apps and Internet of Things

Wearable tech - smartwatchSource: Canva

Smartphone apps collect user data through privacy policies and account creation. Most data they collect are through personal apps.

Fitness apps and trackers aid fitness goals but expose your digital footprint by gathering personal data. 

Health-related apps have similar concerns, and your footprint is created through:

  • Using fitness trackers
  • Health apps utilization
  • Registering email with gyms
  • Subscribing to health blogs

    6. People Search Sites

Google searchesSource: Canva

As people surf the internet, their browsing history gets recorded by the browser, revealing personal information on search engines like Google and Bing. 

If you like surfing the web, be mindful of the following: 

  • Searching for yourself
  • Search history tracking reveals your interests and activities.
  • Registering your email or other data on these sites leaves a mark.
  • When someone runs a background check on you, your information gets recorded in their databases.

The Importance of Managing Your Digital Footprint

Identity theft and fraud lurk as your information falls into the wrong hands. A substantial digital footprint heightens these risks.

The more information about you online, the bigger your digital footprint — which can mean an increased risk of a data breach.

Digital footprints matter because they can impact you in the following ways. For example:

  • Your Digital Footprint is Forever Present

Experts advise caution in posting online as data can remain permanently. Even if the content is deleted, it may still exist elsewhere.

  • It Determines Your Reputation 

A lasting digital trail shapes reputations, even from old data. Past opinions may haunt you despite personal growth.

  • Its Impact on Employment Vetting

77% of employers Google searches their job applicants, making your online presence crucial for job prospects. 

Beyond employers, governments, security companies, police stations, and educational institutions analyze digital footprints for various purposes, including fact-checking applicant claims.

  • Digital Imprints are Easily Accessible

No special skills are needed when searching for people; anyone with a device and search tool can investigate a digital footprint. 

In today's world, digital footprints hold more significance than offline reputations due to their accessibility.

  • It Shapes Your Credibility

Your online presence influences credibility. Problematic information or confidential data may reduce trust. Also, past contradictions can tarnish your credibility with employers and acquaintances. 

  • There may be Dangers of Misinterpreting Photos and Videos

Online users often jump to conclusions from ambiguous information, leading to a snowball effect of misinformation.

Outdated photos and videos. These can trigger misunderstandings, while misinterpreted words may lead to risky situations, even fatal consequences.

  • It Spreads Far and Wide

The growing internet enables rapid digital trail disappearance through various platforms, affecting active and passive data.

Problems arise when people don’t understand how much information they put online and what can be done. Safeguard your digital footprint for better control and privacy.

How to Protect Your Digital Footprint

In the spotlight of this article lies the utmost significance — discover the top 10 simple steps to safeguard your personal data effectively.

Here’s how you can handle your online reputation and safety like a pro:

  • Delete unused accounts.

Get rid of old and inactive social media profiles holding your personal information, and unsubscribe from unread newsletters to fortify your defense against potential data breaches.

  • Change privacy settings. 

Restrict post viewers to friends on Facebook, create a "close friends" list on Instagram for exclusive story sharing, and keep accounts private to avoid unwanted attention.

  • Get a reliable VPN.

Invest in a quality VPN to ward off prying eyes. It conceals your IP address, making tracing your online activities more challenging.

🎗️Remember: VPNs are beneficial but won’t render you completely anonymous. Learn how with TechJury’s article Does a VPN Hide You From Your ISP? [All You Need To Know].

  • Share less information.

Before hitting "Confirm" on sharing data, consider if it's necessary. Your information might be misused or exposed in a breach. 

  • Steer clear of risky websites. 

Watch out for the URL – safe ones begin with "https://," where the 'S' means "secure" and indicates a valid security certificate. A sample of it is SSL certificates or SSL proxies.

If it's just "http://," it's best to avoid it altogether.

  • Exercise caution with public Wi-Fi. 

When you connect to an unsecured public hotspot, hackers may easily install malware on your smartphone.

Hackers may deceive you into visiting a malicious website by inserting an infected ad, submitting personal information via a phishing form, or downloading bogus software that secretly logs your keystrokes.

Your online identity and activity are now vulnerable. You should use mobile data instead.

  • Give due attention when crafting passwords. 

Follow websites' guidance for robust ones: lengthy, with numbers, symbols, and uppercase letters. Always use distinct passwords for each new profile and update them regularly.

  • Stay safe with updated software.

In the digital world, outdated software becomes an open invitation for cybercriminals, making their malicious efforts effortless. 

Keep guard by regularly updating your software to deter hackers and cyberattacks from accessing your online presence.

  • Avoid saving your social media login credentials.

Logging in automatically with Facebook or Twitter may seem convenient. Still, it increases the risk of your digital trail falling into the wrong hands. 

Stay safe and separate from these websites.

  • Respond swiftly to data breaches.

There’s no time to waste. Act promptly by contacting the institution, reporting the incident, and changing your password. Take decisive steps to safeguard your information.

👍 Helpful Article: To get a more in-depth look at protecting and reducing your digital footprint, check out TechJury’s article on how to protect your digital footprints.


Leaving digital footprints enhances your online experience, tailoring services to your liking. But beware! Cybercriminals exploit these traces for identity theft, invasion of privacy, phishing, and scams.

To stay safe, learn essential protective measures against cyberattacks. It's not a one-time cleanup; ongoing cyber hygiene is vital. Continuously monitor and manage your online presence to ensure your security.


Can you see someone else’s digital footprint?

Yes, you can see anyone's digital footprint by pulling data through their search history or via one's internet service provider.  

How is digital footprint used to your advantage?

A positive digital footprint boosts your online reputation when people search for your brand and attract new business, creating an advantage for you.

Is a digital footprint permanent?

Yes, a digital footprint is quite permanent. Once data is public or semi-public on social media, control diminishes over its usage.

Does using the incognito mode hide your digital footprint?

Despite using incognito mode, it doesn't hide your footprints. Websites track your activities, and logging in reveals your identity instantly.


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