What is a digital footprint And how to protect it from hackers
What is a digital footprint? And how to protect it from hackers 3

Table of Contents

Digital footprint – meaning and definition

A digital footprint, also known as a digital shadow or electronic footprint, encompasses the data trail generated during your internet activities. This comprises the websites you visit, emails you transmit, and information you disclose online. Tracking a person’s online actions and devices is made possible through their digital footprint. Internet users contribute to their digital footprint through both active and passive means.

What is a digital footprint?

Every time you engage with the internet, you generate a digital footprint, an evolving collection of information. This footprint expands through various actions, such as posting on social media, subscribing to newsletters, leaving online reviews, or making purchases.

Contributing to your digital footprint isn’t always overt. Websites may discreetly track your activity using cookies, and apps can compile your data surreptitiously. Granting organizations access to your information could lead to the sale or sharing of your data with third parties. Additionally, your personal information might be at risk in the event of a data breach.

The terms “active” and “passive” are frequently used to describe digital footprints.

Active digital footprints

An active digital footprint results from intentional user actions in sharing personal information. This can occur through activities like posting on social networking sites or participating in online forums. When a user is logged into a website using a registered username or profile, any contributions they make become part of their active digital footprint. Engaging in actions such as filling out online forms, like subscribing to a newsletter, or consenting to accept cookies on your browser also adds to the creation of an active digital footprint.

Passive digital footprints

A passive digital footprint emerges when information is gathered about the user without their explicit awareness of the process. This occurs, for instance, when websites collect data on users’ visit frequencies, origins, and IP addresses. This is a covert procedure that users might not be cognizant of. Additional instances of passive footprints involve social networking sites and advertisers utilizing your likes, shares, and comments to create profiles and target you with tailored content.

Why do digital footprints matter?

Digital footprints are significant for several reasons:

  1. Permanence and Limited Control: Once data becomes public or semi-public, such as with Facebook posts, the owner often has minimal control over its subsequent usage.
  2. Digital Reputation: A person’s digital footprint plays a crucial role in shaping their digital reputation, now regarded as comparably important to their offline reputation.
  3. Employment and Education: Employers and educational institutions frequently scrutinize potential employees’ and students’ digital footprints, especially on social media, as part of their decision-making process.
  4. Potential for Misinterpretation: Words and photos shared online can be misinterpreted or altered, leading to unintended offense or misunderstanding.
  5. Privacy Risks: Content intended for a private audience can inadvertently reach a broader audience, jeopardizing relationships and friendships.
  6. Cybersecurity Threats: Cybercriminals may exploit your digital footprint for phishing attempts, gaining unauthorized account access, or creating false identities based on your personal data.

Given these implications, it is advisable to carefully consider and manage your digital footprint by exercising caution in online activities to control the data accessible to others.

Digital footprint examples

A digital footprint can comprise numerous elements for an internet user, and various activities contribute to its formation, including:

Online Shopping digital footprint :

  • Making purchases on e-commerce websites
  • Registering for accounts or availing coupons
  • Downloading and utilizing shopping apps
  • Subscribing to newsletters from brands

Online Banking digital footprint :

  • Utilizing mobile banking apps
  • Engaging in stock transactions
  • Subscribing to financial publications and blogs
  • Opening credit card accounts

Social Media digital footprint :

  • Accessing social media platforms on computers or devices
  • Logging into other websites using social media credentials
  • Connecting with friends and contacts
  • Sharing information, data, and photos within social circles
  • Participating in dating sites or apps

Reading the News digital footprint:

  • Subscribing to online news sources
  • Reading articles through news apps
  • Enrolling in newsletters from publications
  • Sharing or reposting articles and information

Health and Fitness digital footprint:

  • Using fitness trackers
  • Utilizing apps for healthcare information
  • Registering email addresses with gyms
  • Subscribing to health and fitness blogs

Protect your digital footprint

Given that employers, colleges, and others can research your online identity, it’s crucial to be mindful of your digital footprint. Here are tips for safeguarding your personal data and managing your online reputation:

  1. Use search engines to check your digital footprint:
    • Enter your name, including variations, into search engines.
    • Review results to assess publicly available information.
    • Contact site administrators to address negative content, if necessary.
    • Set up Google Alerts for ongoing monitoring.
  2. Reduce information sources:
    • Contact real estate websites and whitepages.com to remove excessive personal information.
  3. Limit data sharing:
    • Carefully consider the necessity of providing personal information to minimize your digital footprint.
  4. Double-check privacy settings:
    • Adjust social media privacy settings to control who sees your posts.
    • Remember that privacy settings apply only within the specific social media platform.
  5. Avoid oversharing on social media:
    • Exercise caution in revealing location, travel plans, or personal information.
    • Refrain from including sensitive details in social media bios.
    • Avoid ‘liking’ sensitive entities on social media.
  6. Avoid unsafe websites:
    • Ensure transactions occur on secure websites (https://).
    • Never share confidential information on unsecured sites, especially payment details.
  7. Avoid disclosing private data on public Wi-Fi:
    • Refrain from sharing personal information when using public Wi-Fi networks.
  8. Delete old accounts:
    • Minimize your digital footprint by removing unused accounts, such as dormant social media profiles.
  9. Create strong passwords and use a password manager:
    • Maintain internet security with lengthy, complex passwords.
    • Utilize a password manager for secure password storage and management.
  10. Keep an eye on your medical records:
    • Periodically review medical records to prevent identity theft.
  11. Don’t log in with Facebook:
    • Minimize the use of Facebook credentials for third-party logins to protect your data.
  12. Keep software up to date:
    • Regularly update software to prevent cybercriminal access.
  13. Review mobile use:
    • Set a passcode for mobile devices and scrutinize app user agreements for data collection practices.
  14. Think before you post:
    • Be mindful of the messages conveyed by your online activity.
    • Create a positive digital footprint by posting content aligned with your desired image.
  15. Act fast after a breach:
    • Take immediate action if you suspect data compromise.
    • Report financial losses and update passwords.
  16. Use a VPN:
    • Safeguard your digital footprint with a VPN, such as Kaspersky VPN Secure Connection, to ensure online privacy and prevent tracking.

By mansoor

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