What Is a Digital Footprint - Explained in Under 5 Mins

Deyan Georgiev
Deyan Georgiev

Updated · Jul 19, 2022

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Today we are going to talk about a very serious topic so listen up! 

We’re discussing your safety or in other words - everything you need to know about digital trace.

But what is a digital footprint

Gather round, children. I have a concept to explain.

What Is a Digital Footprint?

Whether you’re aware of it or not, your internet usage creates a trail of information that can be traced right back to you. That is your digital footprint

It gets bigger every time you surf the Web. For example, Twitter users send over half a million tweets every minute and every single one of them adds to their individual digital trace.

Some seemingly unimportant decisions that you make can contribute to the collection of your data. For example, allowing websites to install cookies on your device, as well as giving apps access to your location, call history, gallery, etc. You often don’t have control over how the collected data will be used. In addition, a breach is always a scary possibility.

Another thing: 

A lot of employers and universities look into the internet footprints of candidates before accepting them. If your digital identity isn’t ideal, they might not give you a chance.

Let’s dig deeper.

Types of Digital Footprint

When talking about a person’s online footprint, we have to mention that it can be both active and passive. Here’s the difference:

Active

An active digital footprint is entirely in your control. It’s created when you consciously share information about yourself through posting, subscribing to newsletters, booking flights and hotels, etc. Accepting cookies is also a part of the active type.

Passive

A passive digital footprint is created when the user doesn’t realize that their information is being collected. Websites often know users’ IP address and location. They track the amount of times a person visits their site and the time they spend looking at a page. 

Digital Footprint Examples

Many actions that you take while browsing will add to your web footprint. Here’s some of the main ones:

Social Media

Our excessive use of social platforms has turned them into a place where some of your most personal information can be found through. You leave a footprint by:

  •     Connecting with friends online
  •     Joining a dating app
  •     Sharing data, photos and videos
  •     Using your social media credentials to sign up for other websites

Online Shopping

Providing e-commerce websites access to your internet footprint happens through:

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

Health and Fitness

If you’re an active person and you like to track your progress, be mindful of:

  •     Using apps that track your fitness activities
  •     Subscribing to health blogs
  •     Registering your email address with a gym
  •     Receiving health care through apps

How To Protect Your Digital Footprint

This is the most important part of this article. I’m going to tell you the top 10 ways you can ensure your personal data is protected:

Delete Old Accounts

It’s best to delete social media accounts that you don’t use anymore but carry information about you. Unsubscribe to newsletters you don’t read as well. This can protect you from future data breaches.

Change Privacy Settings

Controlling who sees your posts is a possible on every social platform so take advantage of that. Limit the viewers to only your friends on Facebook. Make a “close friends” list on Instagram and share your stories with them only. Make your accounts private (this can also help you keep creeps away).

Use A VPN

Invest in a good VPN. This is an effective way to keep prying eyes away from your cyber footprint. It masks your IP address and makes your online actions harder to track. 

Keep in mind that even though very helpful, a VPN does not make you completely anonymous.

Share Less

Every time you type in your data in a form, for example, stop for a moment and think if it’s worth it to press Confirm. Remember that your information can be used for the wrong reasons. Also, a breach can always happen.

What you need to pay the most attention to, though, is what you share on social networking sites. We are used to putting our entire lives and thoughts out there for everyone to see. 

But is that really what we should be doing? 

Now that you know about the existence of internet footprints, you should always think twice.

Stay Away From Unsafe Websites

How can you tell if a website is unsafe? Pay attention to its URL. 

Every safe option’s URL starts with “https://”. The S is what you should be looking for. It stands for “secure” and shows that a website has a security certificate. 

If you only see “http://”, best avoid it.

Be Careful With Public Wi-Fi

When using a public Wi-Fi connection, you should never send or disclose important information. You never know who created the hotspot or who is watching. This puts you and your web footprint in a vulnerable position. If possible, use your mobile data instead.

Take Your Time Creating a Password

Websites often give you tips on how to create a strong password. It should be long and should include numbers, symbols, and uppercase letters. 

Try to use a different password for every new profile you create and frequently change them afterward.

Update Your Software

Always remember that an outdated software is a vulnerable one. It makes a cybercriminal’s job much easier.

Always keep your software up to date to lessen the chances of hackers getting their hands on your internet footprint.

Don’t Log In With a Social Media Account

Logging in with Facebook or Twitter saves time and effort. But is it a good idea? 

Nope! 

The more websites that have access to your socials, the bigger the chance of your web footprint getting to the wrong people.

Take Quick Action After a Breach

A data breach happens. Now what? 

Take immediate action. Contact the institution and report the incident. Change your password. Act appropriately to the situation at hand.

Wrap Up

Your footprint online is created by your actions on the internet and includes all the available information about you. If you’re not careful, it can be accessed by ill-intentioned individuals. 

Thankfully, there are ways you can protect yourself.

My guide has all the tips and tricks you’ll need to create an enviroment that’s as safe as possible.

Good luck out there and remember - constant diligence! 

FAQ.


How digital footprints are created?

You create it by using the internet. Every website that you visit, search query, post, email, comment, every access you allow…you get the gist.

Who looks at your digital footprint?

Well, for one, companies and advertisers build you a profile and target you with customized ads. Also, as we mentioned, future employers or universities often look you up. 

A scary thought, but cybercriminals can dig into your cyber footprint to get access to your finances or to commit account fraud. It’s even possible for the government to look into you.

Can you erase your digital footprint?

So, what is a digital footprint? 

Information about you that exists in every Internet database you’ve ever interacted with. 

Can you erase it?

Nope. It can be minimized but never completely deleted. 

 

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Deyan Georgiev

Deyan Georgiev

Deyan has been fascinated by technology his whole life. From the first Tetris game all the way to Falcon Heavy. Working for TechJury is like a dream come true, combining both his passions – writing and technology. In his free time (which is pretty scarce, thanks to his three kids), Deyan enjoys traveling and exploring new places. Always with a few chargers and a couple of gadgets in the backpack. He makes mean dizzying Island Paradise cocktails too.

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