A digital footprint, or digital shadow, is the data related to a user and their actions online that is traceable in some way. All Internet users leave behind a digital footprint, including companies.
Types of digital footprints
We can divide digital footprints into two categories:
- An active digital footprint is information a user shares intentionally. An active footprint includes, for example, posts on social networks and blogs, comments, feedback about services, and user profile information;
- A passive digital footprint is information a user shares unintentionally. It consists of data that Web resources receive and save automatically: cookies, IP addresses, search history, and so forth.
Digital footprint–related risks
The collection and use of data about users’ online activity threatens privacy. On the one hand, online services can leverage digital footprints to infer habits and preferences, using that information to personalize displayed content. On the other, having that information increases the risk of doxing and identity theft. In addition, information published online can affect a user’s or company’s reputation.
Managing digital footprints
To reduce your digital footprint:
- Use incognito mode to stop the browser from storing cookies or browsing history;
- Set strict privacy settings in browsers and on Web resources;
- Use aliases and disposable e-mail addresses for registration on websites;
- Grant apps only the permissions they need to run;
- Block third-party trackers on websites;
- Delete unnecessary accounts;
- Avoid posting information that is confidential or could compromise an individual or company.