TechTalkTuesday – Digital Footprint

Welcome to #TechTalkTuesday – where tech terms are defined, explained, and no longer a mystery.

Today’s term is digital footprint.

Your digital footprint is the data trail that is left behind you when you’re on the internet. It can include the info you send through online forms, your emails, social media use, your search engine use, and the websites that you visit. Should your digital footprint matter to you? In some ways, yes. Your digital footprint can be used, in part, to track your activities online and the devices that you are using online.

A brief overview of a digital footprint

Each time you visit a website or send an email, you leave a trail of info referred to as your digital footprint. There are several ways that your digital footprint can expand.

  • Every time that you subscribe to a newsletter, blog, or podcast.
  • Each time that you post something on social media. This could include public comments on business pages.
  • When you leave a review, perhaps for a business or a restaurant that you’ve visited.
  • Whenever you shop online or just browse a store and casually add to your shopping cart without finalizing a purchase.

In some situations, it’s pretty clear that the activities you’re participating in contribute to your digital footprint. In other cases, a website may be tracking your online activity by installing what is known as a cookie onto your device. This allows for the automatic collection of your online activity data, sometimes without your knowledge. Once an organization has access to your data, they should share it or sell it. Your personal info can also be part of a data leak that compromises your identity.

Digital footprint and cybersecurity risks

Your digital footprint does pose a potential cybersecurity risk. It’s easy to think that what you’re posting on social media, entering into forms, or signing up for won’t be a potential risk to your cybersecurity.

However, if your data is being accumulated and tracked, your cybersecurity risks increase for a few simple reasons. First, cybercriminals will be able to exploit your digital footprint data to help them with social engineering and phishing scams.

Be mindful of the info that you are sharing in a public forum. Consider using a free email account specifically to sign up for newsletters, new accounts, podcasts, and other things that will add to your digital footprint. Make sure that your social media accounts are set to private so that none of your info is readily visible to would-be fraudsters.

The more steps you take to protect yourself online, the fewer risks you face of becoming the target of a fraudster.