Why your digital footprint matters

Every second you spend on the Internet, you’re actively involved in painting a digital picture of yourself.

This portrait helps companies target content at specific markets and consumers, helps employers look into your background, and helps advertisers track your movements across multiple websites. Whatever you do online, you might be leaving digital footprints behind. (http://www.internetsociety.org/your-digital-footprint-matters)

In short, your digital footprint is everything you do online. Social media activity, app usage, email records. Watching videos, visiting adult sites, using certain plugins, everything goes into this piece of art. Whether you like it or not, everything you do on the web can be tracked. A lot of people seem to think that using incognito features on browsers or routers does any good. It might hide data locally (on your system) but it does nothing to completely hide your presence on the web.
A diagram of how your internet works

The above is a very simple yet accurate depiction of how you access the internet. The ISP, your (Internet Service Provider) provides this service to your home modem/router, which is then accessed by your devices. Think of it this way. Every site you want to visit is sent as a request to your ISP, and then is relayed back to you to access. The ISP can simply make a database of these requests of information from you, and then plot it to see what you’ve been upto lately. You aren’t as hidden as you think you are.

There’s several ways you leave Digital Footprints. (From internetsociety.org):

Websites And Online Shopping:  Retailers and product review sites often leave cookies on your system which can track your movement from site-to-site, allowing targeted advertisements that can show you products you’ve been recently reading about or looking at online. 

Social Media: All those +1s, Retweets, and Facebook comments (even private ones) leave a record. Make sure you know what the default privacy settings are for your social media accounts, and keep an eye on them. Sites often introduce new policies and settings that increase the visibility of your data. They may rely on you just clicking “OK” to whatever terms they are introducing, without reading them. 

Mobile Phones, Tablets, or Laptops: Some websites will build a list of different devices you have used to visit those sites. While this can often be used as a way to help secure your account, it is important to understand the information being collected about your habits.


The web has ears, and it’s listening every time you use it. One of my first introductions to this concept was by a game I was closely following, Watch Dogs. They made a pretty accurate trailer, and while it is quite scary, the danger of your ‘digital shadow’, which is another connotation for digital footprint, could get in the hands of someone you don’t want it to.


While you can call it extremely overplayed, this is the same thing as someone having a book of every single thing you’ve done. Every WhatsApp message you’ve sent. Every Instagram post you’ve liked. Every Facebook post you’ve commented on, and even that snap you sent on Snapchat five minutes ago.

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