Digital Footprints  Privacy Settings  Information Theft  
   Technology    Internet Security

Digital Footprints: The trails you leave on the web

 JULY 21, 2016   by SJ13


Cyber shadow, Electronic Footprint, or Digital Shadow, names can be many. Widely known as Digital Footprints, they store a user's web-browsing history and store them as cookies which further act as a trail or "footprints" that people leave online.

According to Webopedia, “On the Internet a digital footprint is the word used to describe the trail, traces or "footprints" that people leave online. This is information transmitted online, such as forum registration, e-mails and attachments, uploading videos or digital images and any other form of transmission of information — all of which leaves traces of personal information about yourself available to others online.”

Digital footprints can be classified as following:

Passive: When traces of data are created without the knowledge of the user.

Active: When personal data is knowingly generated by a user when he/she shares personal information about oneself through social media or other websites.


  • Creating an Online Identity: In today's digital world where from basic to highly complex tasks are performed online, you can't ignore the effect internet has created in our lives. For keeping up pace with this technologically advanced world one tends to create their online identities in different forms. Profiles on social networks, logging onto websites with one's user names, indulging in conversations etc. are some of the common ways.
  • 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 us products you've been recently reading about or looking at online.
  • Social media: Every time we re-tweet a tweet, comment or share information of Facebook or share a picture on Instagram, they leave a record. These systems of Social networking sites record the activities of users and allow digital tracing data to include individual interests, social groups, behaviours, and location. Be careful about the type of content you are a part of.


  • Advertisers: The social networking sites or the e-shopping websites sell the audience's credentials to the advertisers who further use it to sell us their products.
  • Recruiters: ‘Cyber-Vetting’ is a process where interviewers/recruiters could research applicants based on their online activities.
  • Legal agencies: Internet footprints are also used by law enforcement agencies, to provide information that would be unavailable otherwise due to a lack of probable cause.


Since these days we are encouraged to add lots of information about ourselves onto the internet, here are some few things to keep in mind:

  • Make sure you always remember to logoff when you have finished with an online service, since most of the websites you visit make a note of your visit and can also track the websites you visit before and after their website.
  • Beware of the information related to your privacy settings of your social media accounts, and keep an eye on them. Sites often introduce new policies and settings that increase the visibility of your data. Read the terms and conditions carefully before accepting any new amendment.
  • Keep your passwords to yourself.
  • Don’t put too much information about yourself online and keep the settings private while sharing personal pictures/content.

Remember, every time you go online you leave a trail. It’s important to protect your identity and your own digital footprint.