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What is your digital footprint and how to control it?

What is a digital footprint? You can otherwise refer to it as an electronic footprint. It is the small pieces of info you leave online when using the internet.

Yes, there is a record of everything you do on the internet. Finding a person’s details online today is, therefore, very easy.

A digital footprint paints a virtual picture of who you are online. It sticks around even if you’re offline; hence, you cannot underrate its importance.

The different types of digital footprints

There are about six types of electronic prints, but we will only discuss the main four.

Passive digital footprint

Leaving a trail of passive digital footprint is often done unknowingly. A user hardly knows that they are leaving this type of footprint behind because it is involuntary. You create this type of digital footprint by installing cookies from a site online or using an app that reads your IP location.

This passive information can be traced back to a user by gathering their online history without having to put the information out themselves necessarily.

Active digital footprint

You create an active digital footprint when you intentionally submit data about yourself on the internet. Active digital footprint leaves a trail when you post on social media or blog posts. It could, therefore, mean any data that you voluntarily share online. These electronic footprints are also visible to any internet user, let alone a hacker.

Personally identifiable

Personal information that can be traced back to a real name and identity can be included here. The data trace includes real-life contacts and addresses. Having this sort of data online is sensitive and should be safeguarded.


After visiting a website, the search history you leave behind is the anonymous digital footprint. The data cannot be traced back to a real person, but the trail is there regardless.

This type of footprint is less sensitive than the others but should be protected aggressively all the same. 

Uses of digital footprints

The virtual world offers an unprecedented wealth of data to anyone who needs it. Billions of digital footprints make a great contribution.

Everyone who has been online for a while has a long history of digital prints that they probably have no idea exists. Many parties ranging from law enforcers to employers, find these prints very valuable.

Brands use their customers’ online history to create detailed profiles. They then use these profiles to market their product. This creates a lasting impression about them on their potential customers.

On the other hand, law enforcers can trace criminals, get proof to counteract false claims, or provide evidence of crimes through digital footprints. They can, therefore, prosecute their case better using our online history.

One’s record of online activities is useful to companies hiring new employers. From new recruiters to established entities, all businesses want to find the right talent to help them work through their projects. They also want to know that their workers match their company values.

It is not all roses, as people with ill intentions benefit from digital footprints too. Fraudsters can easily create fake accounts by copying personal information they find on the internet and commit crimes in the names of ordinary people.

Storage of digital footprints

GDPR regulations state that digital footprints shouldn’t be stored for longer than 12 months. This law is currently working across Europe. However, many exemptions have proved otherwise through practice.

You can control most of what can be traced back to you. For example, after deleting social accounts, the trail can only stay for one month on max.

All in all, manually deleting your digital prints is the best way to clean up your online trail.

Taking the lead on your online activities

If you have been on the internet for a while, the chances you’ve been on a bunch of old software that you do not even remember using are high. Fun fact; someone will look you up on the internet in the future, perhaps a potential employer, if they already haven’t. Keeping your online trace as clean as possible should be a concern for you.

The best way to do that is by doing the cleaning up yourself. We recommend some of these methods to help you.

Conduct a “you” search on the internet

Type your full name on the search bar and see what comes up. You’d be surprised to find old photos or accounts you haven’t used in ages. Again, every other internet user can see what you can see when they look up your name.

Google alerts also sends notifications whenever an internet user mentions your name in their searches.

You may even go one step further and look for yourself on Nuwber. People search sites gather all the publicly available information about a person – which is legal in the US. And once again you’ll be able to see what personal details others may find about you.

Update your privacy settings

These types of settings are different for particular accounts and devices. They let you control what your audience can see and what info about your activities apps collect. Learn how the settings operate and how to make the best use of them. However, you cannot trust them entirely; they are not always accurate.

Use strong passwords online

Passwords make your accounts inaccessible to everyone else but you. Having strong passwords is an essential online safety measure.

Ensure your passwords are memorable to avoid resetting them all the time. Consequently, let it not be something someone, including your friends, can randomly guess. Consider using password managers if you have a bunch of passwords that you often use.

Update all software on your devices

Cybercriminals take advantage of the vulnerability of old software to attack. Most malware programs attack effortlessly through outdated software and enter your systems.

If not updated, the digital footprint in old software could be easily accessible.

Check your mobile apps

Delete all the mobile apps that you no longer use. Read the fine print before installing apps. From time to time, check the privacy settings to ensure no information is shared through these apps.

Create a professional image online

Maintaining a professional image on the internet requires you to frequently clean up your online trail. Delete any history that portrays you negatively. Focus on showing your abilities and interests. Create a professional site or an account on such platforms as LinkedIn.


Digital footprints are records of our daily online internet use. Knowing its impacts on your online presence is necessary. While we cannot sit and watch technology pass us by, we must remain proactive in controlling the narrative behind our privacy. Remember, it’s true what they say: the Internet never forgets! 

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Heather Jones

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