Digital Footprint: Definition & Facts

Instructor: Temitayo Odugbesan

Temitayo has 11+ years Industrial Experience in Information Technology and has a master's degree in Computer Science.

In this lesson, we will be looking at what a digital footprint means, how it came to be, and how it is affecting us all. We will also look at the startling numbers of digital footprints per human based on data collected.

Definition of Digital Footprint (DF)

Digital footprint (DF) is the electronic trail we knowingly or unknowingly leave behind each time we access the internet or other electronic devices. It is created when we access services, post, or make comments on the internet.

Digital footprints are categorized into an active digital footprint and a passive digital footprint . Active digital footprints are those details we knowingly leave behind online, and which we still make use of everyday, while passive digital footprints are those which are left behind unintentionally through our use of online services or whose services we no longer access.

How Our Digital Footprints Evolved

Henry was sixteen years old when social networking media became the mainstay of our daily life. During this period, he had access to the likes of MySpace, Hi5, Facebook, and Orkut, all of which he used to maintain contact with family and friends.

Ten years later, at twenty-six years old, and out of college, he could hardly remember the login details of his profiles on these platforms he had used ten years earlier except maybe for LinkedIn, which he currently uses to track job opportunities.

Two weeks ago, he surprisingly got an invitation to attend a job interview for a professional position in a blue chip company on Wall Street.

He was hit with disappointment when he was told he could not get the job due to some disturbing posts he had on one of his social media profiles ten years earlier.

Unfortunately, today, this is a common occurrence worldwide. With the advent of the internet and lack of a well-defined internet use etiquette, just like Henry, many people whose digital footprints have grown in large proportion are now at risk of not only damaging their reputation, but also at risk of identity theft .

Not all digital footprints, however, are as a result of social network media as some reports have shown.

You may be wondering what makes up our digital footprints? Well, wonder no more. Below are some of the components of our digital footprints:

  • Personal information
    • Name
    • Date of birth
    • Address
    • Phone number
    • Photographs
  • Own actions
    • Emails sent
    • Upload of documents, photographs,
    • Text messages
    • Websites visited
    • Comments and posts on websites and online forums
  • Service provider related
    • Data collected during sign up for services online
    • Telephone and internet service providers
    • Other tools we use online everyday which requests some form of our data

Facts about Digital Footprint

Below are some instances where digital footprints have been a source of joy to some and worries to others.

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