Reading: Digital footprint

Digital footprint [1]

Your digital footprint is composed of all the information and data that you leave behind through your online activities: comments on social media, Skype calls, app use and email records, all can potentially be seen by other people, or stored in a database, often without you knowing that.

So: it is important to take care of your digital footprints, but how to do so? First of all, by knowing how your footprints are created. As we have seen, online shopping and product review sites often leave cookies on your browser which track your movements on the web, allowing targeted advertisements that can show you products you might be potentially interested in. So: think twice before accepting a cookie from a stranger site. Also, Social Media platforms keep track of all your likes and comments (even private ones), so make sure you are aware of the default privacy settings of the social media sites you use, and remain updated about the new policies and settings that these companies often introduce. Remember that long privacy settings text you did not read and just clicked ok? Yes, that’s it. Also, some websites build a list of the different devices you used to visit them, getting to know about your different habits, position, etc.

Digital footprints can be passive and active. A passive digital footprint is data that you unintentionally leave online: your IP address, which identifies your Internet service provider and your approximate location, your search history, and even the way you click on your mobile phone or you move your mouse on your computer screen. An active digital footprint includes data that you intentionally submit online: the emails you send, your activities on social media, the videos you watch, etc.

Norton, the famous antivirus company, has created a nice list of six things you should often do to manage your digital footprint [2]:

1. Enter your name into different search engines and review the first two or three pages of results. What image do they give of you? Do they show you in a professional and positive light? If anything comes up that you don’t like, you have the right to ask the site administrator to take it down.

2. Check your privacy settings, both in your computer and mobile phone, and in the apps you use, and spend some time getting to explore these settings.

3. Create strong, memorable passwords.

4. Keep all your software and apps updated, since many attempts to mine your digital footprint can “enter” through not-updated software.

5. Review the apps on your phone or tablet frequently, checking their privacy and information-sharing settings. If you don’t use apps anymore, delete them.

6. Build your reputation through your behaviour, by posting only those things that contribute to the image of you that you want your present and future bosses, or professors to see.


[1] This text is partially adapted from: Internet Society (2016). Policy Brief: Identity in the Internet.

[2] Norton (2018). What is a digital footprint? And how to help protect it from prying eyes.

Last modified: Tuesday, 14 June 2022, 2:54 PM