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What is a digital footprint and what does it matter?

Study guide

Ever heard of digital footprint? Do you think that the information we publish about ourselves on social media remains private or is it accessible to everyone? Follow “How” to read more about the digital footprint and the reasons why you should be careful.

What is a digital footprint?

The digital footprint, sometimes referred to as the “digital shadow” or “electronic footprint”, is a collection of information that you leave behind when you use the Internet. This information includes:

  • The websites you visit;
  • Emails you send;
  • The information you send online.

Digital footprints can be used to track people’s online activities and devices. This digital footprint can be enabled or disabled.

Activated digital footprint

An active digital footprint is information that a user intentionally shares about themselves, such as by posting content on social media or online forums. Other activities that create a digital footprint include completing online forms such as subscribing to newsletters or accepting cookies in the browser.

Disable digital footprint

Passive digital footprint is created when information about the user is collected without their knowledge. For example, websites collect information about the number of times users visit a site, where they come from, and their IP address. This is a hidden process and users may not be aware of it.

Other examples of passive tracking are social media and advertisers who use people’s likes, shares and comments to target them with specific content.

Why is digital footprint important? What are the risks of disclosure?

Examining digital footprint in the world of internet is very important, because it can be abused in various ways, for example:

  • This information is almost permanent, and when public or even semi-public information is released, the information holder has little control over how others use it.
  • Digital footprint can determine a person’s digital reputation, which is now as important as offline reputation.
  • Employers can check the digital footprint of their potential employees, especially their social networks, before making a hiring decision. Educational centers and universities can check the digital footprint of their prospective students before admitting them.
  • The words and pictures you post online may be misinterpreted or altered, causing unintentional insults or misuse, each with its own consequences.
  • Content intended for a private group can spread to a wider audience and even damage relationships and friendships.
  • Cybercriminals can misuse your digital footprint and use it for purposes such as phishing, accessing accounts or creating fake identities based on your data.

For these reasons, it is important to consider what your digital footprint says about you. Many people try to manage their digital footprint by being cautious in cyberspace and be aware of the information that can be gathered about them.

Types of digital footprints

When we use the Internet in various ways, consciously or unconsciously, we bring our information into the world of the Internet. Here are some very common examples.

1. online shopping

  • Shopping from online stores;
  • Register to receive a discount code or create an account;
  • Download and use shopping apps;
  • Subscribe to the brands newsletter.

۲. electronic banking

  • Use of mobile banking applications;
  • Buying or selling stocks;
  • Subscribe to financial journals and blogs;
  • Opening an account for a credit card.

3. Social Networks

  • Use of social networks on mobile or computer;
  • Log in to other sites using social media accounts;
  • Connect with friends and audiences;
  • Share information and photos with others;
  • Join a dating site or app.

4. Read the news

  • Subscribe to online news media;
  • View news in news apps;
  • Sign up for a newsletter;
  • Republish articles and information you have read.

5. health and fitness

  • Use of fitness trackers;
  • Use of applications to receive health care;
  • Register email addresses in sports clubs;
  • Subscribe to health and fitness blogs.

How to protect your digital footprint?

Digital footprint in online shopping

Anyone can find some of this information by searching for you, so it is advisable to be careful with your vital information by considering the following points so that you do not get into trouble.

1. Use search engines to check your digital footprint

Enter your name in the search engines. If you have changed your name, search for your current and former name. Checking the search engine results shows you what information about you is publicly available. Setting up Google Alerts is one way to monitor your name on the Internet.

۲. Reduce the number of sources of information that contain your name

For example, real estate and buying and selling websites may have a lot of information about you that you do not want to stay on the Internet. These sites usually have access to personal information such as your phone number, address and age. If you do not like this situation, you can contact these websites and request that your information be deleted.

3. Limit the amount of information you share

Every time you share your personal information with a collection, you expand your digital footprint. You also increase the likelihood that one of these databases will store, misuse, or disclose your data. So before sending any information and filling out the forms, consider whether it is worth it or not. There may be other ways to access information or services without sharing information.

4. Check your privacy settings again

Privacy settings on social networks allow you to control who sees your posts. Check these settings and make sure they are tailored to your needs, for example Facebook allows you to restrict the display of posts to your friends only.

5. Avoid sharing too much on social media

Social networks make it easy to connect with others, but they can also make it easier to share information. Think carefully before disclosing your location, itinerary or other personal information.

Do not provide your phone number or email address in the “About Me” section of social media. It is also better than liking bank pages, health care provider, pharmacy and…. Avoid, as this could lead cybercriminals to your important accounts.

6. Avoid unsafe sites

Make sure you trade on a secure site. Site URL must start with https. The letter S at this address stands for secure and indicates that the site has a security certificate. There should also be a lock icon on the left side of the address bar. Never share confidential information on insecure sites, especially information such as payment details.

7. Avoid disclosing private information with public WiFi

Wi-Fi public networks are less secure than personal networks because you do not know who is setting them up or who may be monitoring them. Do not send personal information when using public WiFi networks.

8. Delete old accounts

One way to reduce digital footprint is to delete old accounts, such as social media profiles that you no longer use or subscribe to newsletters that you no longer read. Getting rid of inactive accounts minimizes your exposure to potential information disclosures.

9. Choose a strong password

This will make the Internet more secure. The strong password is long and consists of at least 12 characters containing a combination of uppercase and lowercase letters, symbols and numbers. The more complex your password, the harder it is to hack.

Uses password management programs to create, store and manage all passwords in one secure online account. Keep your passwords private. Try not to use the same password for all your accounts and change them regularly.

10. Do not log in to other sites with your Facebook account

Some websites and login apps make it easier to use Facebook. But every time you log in to another website using your Facebook user information, you allow that company to extract your Facebook user data, which potentially puts your personal information at risk.

۱۱. Keep the software up to date

Reduce the digital footprint of software updates

Older software can carry a lot of digital footprint. Cybercriminals can access this information without updating the software and fixing security issues. Cybercriminals can easily gain access to victims’ devices and data by exploiting software vulnerabilities. Older software can be more vulnerable to hacker attacks.

۱۲. Use your mobile phone carefully

Set a password for your mobile phone so that other people can not access it if they get lost. When installing applications, be sure to read the agreements and then approve them. Many programs let you know what kind of information they collect and what they might use it for. These applications may extract personal data such as your email, location and online activities.

13. Think twice before posting anything

What you post on the Internet is actually a message that shows who you are. Your digital footprint, such as uploaded photos, blog comments, YouTube videos, and Facebook posts, may not portray you as you would like to be seen. Only post things that leave a positive digital footprint on you and do not publish private information.

۱۴. Take action immediately after disclosing information

If you suspect that your information may be compromised, take immediate action. If there is a financial loss, contact the bank to report the breach. Change passwords that may have been leaked. If you used the password for other accounts, change it completely.

The last word

These days, with just one click, we can share a lot of personal information on the Internet. Much of the information we share on the Internet in various ways can be misused. For this reason, you must be very sensitive and cautious in publishing this information.

How many digital footprints have you left in the world of internet? Do you think about the possible consequences before publishing posts, pictures, emails and contact numbers? If you have experience experiencing the misuse of your digital footprint, please share it with others in the comments section.





What is a digital footprint and what does it matter?

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