Digital footprints are the traces of data that you leave behind when you use the internet or digital devices . They can be classified into two types: active and passive.
Active digital footprints are the ones that you create intentionally by sharing information about yourself online. For example, when you post on social media, send emails, comment on articles, or fill out online forms, you are creating an active digital footprint.
Passive digital footprints are the ones that are created unintentionally or without your knowledge by websites, apps, or other parties that collect information about your online activities. For example, when you visit a website, it may store cookies on your device, track your IP address, or record your browsing history. These are examples of passive digital footprints.
Your digital footprints matter because they can reveal a lot about you, such as your interests, preferences, habits, opinions, and identity. They can also affect your online reputation, privacy, and security.
Some of the risks of leaving a digital footprint are:
- Your personal information may be used by advertisers, marketers, or other third parties for targeted ads, content, or services2.
- Your personal information may be accessed by hackers, scammers, or other malicious actors who may use it for identity theft, fraud, phishing, or other cybercrimes.
- Your personal information may be exposed by data breaches, leaks, or hacks that may compromise your accounts, devices, or finances.
- Your personal information may be viewed by employers, colleges, or other institutions that may use it to make decisions about you.
Therefore, it is important to be aware of your digital footprints and take steps to protect them from being used against you. Some of the ways to do that are:
- Review your privacy settings on social media and other online platforms and limit who can see your posts, photos, videos, and other personal data.
- Use strong passwords and two-factor authentication for your online accounts and change them regularly.
- Delete or deactivate any unused or unwanted accounts or profiles that may contain your personal information.
- Avoid clicking on suspicious links or attachments that may contain malware or phishing attempts.
- Use a VPN (virtual private network) or a proxy server to hide your IP address and encrypt your online traffic.
- Clear your browser cache and cookies regularly to delete any tracking data that may be stored on your device.
- Be careful about what you share online and think twice before posting anything that may harm your reputation or privacy.