What is a Digital Footprint?

A digital footprint is a trail of data you create while using the Internet. It includes the key-words you search, the websites you visit, emails you send, and information you submit to online services etc.


Digital footprints can be classified as either passive or active.

A “passive digital footprint” is a data trail you unintentionally leave online. For example, when you visit a website, the webserver may log your IP address, which identifies your Internet service provider and your approximate location. While your IP address may change and does not include any personal information, it is still considered part of your digital footprint. A more personal aspect of your passive digital footprint is your search history, which is saved by some search engines while you are logged in.

An “active digital footprint” includes data that you intentionally submit online. Sending an email contributes to your active digital footprint, since you expect the data to be seen and/or saved by another person. The more email you send, the more your digital footprint grows. Since most people save their email online, the messages you send can easily remain online for several years or more. Publishing a blog and posting social media updates are other popular ways to expand your digital footprint. Every tweet you post on Twitter, every status update you publish on Facebook, and every photo you share on Instagram contributes to your digital footprint. The more you spend time on social networking websites, the larger your digital footprint will be. Even “liking” a page or a Facebook post adds to your digital footprint, since the data is saved on Facebook’s servers.


Digital footprints come with both benefits and costs.

Your own digital footprint may contribute to your online reputation. Your digital footprint  can mean you don’t have to repeatedly log in or submit personal details to web sites. On the other hand, your digital footprints may allow others to follow your actions, such as which web sites you use, what things you search for, and who is in your social circle.

Our digital footprints are visible to organizations with whom we have no relationship, and over whom we often have no control. Many organizations also work behind the scenes to build profiles about us based on our digital footprints.

Most people are aware that when they share information about themselves on the Internet, such as with social networking services, and when they use online services, such as electronic mail, instant messaging, or voice calling, they have given up some control over their privacy. This loss of control is frequently the result of explicit acts: making a Skype call, sharing something on Facebook, uploading pictures to Instagram, sending an email to a Gmail user. We may expect some privacy, but we know we’ve given something up, and we’ve left a clear imprint at each of these individual services.


But what about the trail we leave implicitly, as we travel around the Internet? Is it possible for someone to follow us around in the virtual world of the Internet, tracking our digital footprints, tracing the impressions we leave?

The answer is “yes.”

Your digital footprints are bigger than you may have thought, and they are being used – usually for commercial purposes, but sometimes for other reasons – to track you, customize for you, and market to you. These activities are primarily for the benefit of the organization concerned. In short, your digital footprint is a monetizable asset… but any direct gain does not usually come to you, the individual.


A greater threat than economic loss, through your digital footprint corporations/ organizations, can record your personal psychological pattern. Through the deep understanding of you; corporations/ organizations can manipulate the way you think and navigate the way you act. Decisions will no longer be yours. Corporations/ organizations can completely turn you into a puppet in their hands.

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