Understanding Your Digital Footprint: Your Trail Through the Internet




Your digital footprint is essentially your various marks upon the digital world. Learn more about how to keep your trail secure (and not give away too much).


The internet keeps a pretty accurate record of almost everything you do online. Your digital footprint or digital trail is every trace of your online activity from the moment you press enter after typing on the search box. This online activity includes everything from social media posts, online purchases, and even comments on YouTube videos.

The fact that digital footprints even exist immediately brings up the issue of online privacy. Something that put Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg in a rough patch back in 2018.

There are a lot of reasons why privacy should be a concern when browsing the web, and understanding your digital footprint is one way to address any online privacy concerns.

Almost two-thirds of Americans believe it’s impossible to go online without companies or the government collecting data from them. This might not be an issue with some, but it’s certainly a blatant violation of privacy for most people.

While there’s certainly no way to have a zero online footprint, there are ways to manage your digital trail. This piece is an elaborate explanation of your digital trail and how to manage it for better data privacy.

What’s Your Digital Footprint, and How Does It Work?

Before delving into the intricacies of your digital footprint, it might be a good idea first to understand exactly what a digital footprint is. Your digital footprint is something like your online portrait. Websites collect bits of information and records of your activities to create your digital footprint for their marketing initiatives.

The problem with digital footprints is that companies may be crossing the privacy line. That’s why it’s so important to understand your digital footprint to safeguard your privacy.

Digital trails basically boil down to two types:

1. Active Digital Footprints

Think of active digital footprints as the more obvious footprints you make online. These are data collected from when you make deliberate choices when using the internet. Digital footprints include stuff that you post on social media platforms, information you enter on online forms, or for subscription services and your online purchases.

Agreeing to cookies is also another form of active digital footprints. That’s because you’re consenting for the website to gather select information from your browsing activity.

2. Passive Digital Footprint

Unlike active digital footprints, passive footprints aren’t so obvious and deliberate. Passive digital footprints are those that websites collect in the background while browsing through their websites. For instance, how many times you visit a particular site from your current location.

Passive digital footprints are the most contentious because most websites don’t ask for permission before collecting this data. Some examples of passive digital footprints include apps that access your location and sites that collect cookies without consent. Some companies and advertisers may also collect information based on your likes, comments, and groups on social media to tailor their ads to fit your online self.

Proper Management of Your Digital Footprint to Safeguard Your Privacy

Hopefully, you’re now well acquainted with the types of digital footprints and how sites collect your data to create your online persona.

If you feel that websites have strayed too far with their data collection techniques, here are a couple of ways you can manage your digital trail for maximum data privacy.

Google Yourself

The first thing you want to do is to check your current online presence. The best way to do so is by entering both your names on a search engine’s search box.  The first few pages are most likely your social media profiles.

Skip the social media pages, unless you notice anything unusual. Review the other pages and check if they have credible and accurate information about you. Do this twice every month to stay updated on any developments on the information about you that literally, anyone has access to.

Create Solid Passwords That You’ll Remember

A solid password is imperative for data privacy. There are password generating tools that can create any word and numbers combinations to hack into your email or account. So try using non-common words and combining them with symbols when you create your password.

However, don’t create a very complicated password that becomes too difficult to remember. If you’re having trouble remembering your password, you should consider downloading a password manager.

Delete Your Google Account

Your Google account is the first digital footprint that heralds the rest of the prints. If worst comes to worst, consider deleting your Google account. In doing so, you instantly stop all websites from collecting data when you browse because they have no idea who you are.

It’s easier to delete Google account when you have an iPhone because an android phone requires a Google account. You might also want to know how to delete Google account on Mac since it’s somewhat different from deleting it on a Windows PC.

Check Social Media Privacy Settings

You’ve probably tweaked these privacy settings at least once to limit who views your posts. Social media makes it easy to hide your posts from prying eyes and nosey individuals. However, social media companies can only do so much to protect your privacy.

Take your time to read through all the privacy settings. You can even go further to make a list of individuals who can see your post.

The downside with these social media companies is that they aren’t too honest with their privacy. That’s why Facebook faces a $5 billion fine for infringing on user privacy by providing private information to companies. That said, you should be careful when using social media.

Don’t Forget Your Phone

Most people spend much of their lives on the phone; thus, your phone could be a weak point in managing your digital trail. When using your phone, be careful about the apps you install and the permission you give them. If the apps aren’t important, delete them entirely or carefully review all the app permissions before approving them.

Manage Your Digital Trail Wisely

Completely erasing your digital footprint is impossible, since there’s already a lot about you on databases you can’t access. So your best bet is just managing your digital footprint and being cautious about your online activity.

Remember your privacy settings, Google yourself from time to time, and be careful with the apps you install on your phone. If you do so, you’ll have a more secretive digital trail, which is just what you need to protect your online privacy.

Remember to check out other articles on our site for more insightful reads.