What is Digital Footprint: Meaning, Dangers, How to Delete, and Tips for Managing Them

A digital footprint is information that a person leaves while using the internet. This information is difficult to remove and can be misused by irresponsible people. However, cleaning up the digital track record is not impossible.

digital footprint meaning

Well, this article will divulge everything about the digital footprint, from examples of digital footprints, and how to delete digital footprints, to tips on managing them. So, make sure to read the article to the end, OK!

Immediately, see more below.

What is a Digital Footprint?

What is meant by digital traces are all track records of a person's data while surfing the internet? The form can be in the form of uploads on social media, reviews on a forum, or shopping activities in e-commerce.

Sometimes, internet users can leave digital footprints unknowingly. For example, after allowing a website to read cookies, the website can keep a digital track record of the online activities of its visitors. With this cookie data, the website will recommend advertisements that you may like. 

Keep in mind, the digital footprint is difficult to remove. Something someone uploaded may have been deleted, but the digital footprint can't just disappear. Especially if other people still have the upload in the form of screenshots or links. 

Well, to know more about digital footprints, we will invite you to discuss the types of digital footprints. Check out the points below, yes.

Types of Digital Footprint

There are 2 types of digital track records that you need to know, namely:

1. Active Digital Footprint

An active digital footprint is when a user consciously shares information. Examples of active digital footprints include: 
  • Send email 
  • Upload content on Facebook, Twitter or other social media
  • Subscribe to the newsletter 
  • Fill out an online survey

2. Passive Digital Footprint

A passive digital footprint is a data that is 'left' unconsciously by the user when surfing the virtual world. Here is an example of a passive digital trace:
  • Apps that access your GPS location
  • Social media that use likes and shares to show targeted ads on your social media  
  • Websites that use cookies to track your online activity without your permission
You already know various examples of digital traces of the active and passive types. You also need to know that a digital footprint is an information that can be used for various things. Want to know more? Scroll down, yes!

How is Your Digital Footprint Used?

So, some of the uses of digital traces are:

1. Personalized Marketing

Digital footprints can be used to implement personalized marketing strategies, you know. What is it? So, personalized marketing is an effort to provide marketing content that suits the target consumer.

Well, digital traces can be used to carry out this strategy because of the presence of cookies, which are files that are stored on your device after you visit a website. 

Through cookies, digital marketers can get your personal information such as age, gender, preferences, and others. 

For example, when you browse a shoe brand in a search engine, you will likely come across ads similar to what you are looking for. 

2. Background Check

Currently, 70% of recruiters have used social media to screen candidates. This background check is done by looking at digital traces, aka online activities and social media behaviour on platforms such as LinkedIn, Twitter, and others.

The recruiter performs background checks to determine a candidate's true personality. If it does not match the company culture, it is not impossible that the candidate will not pass the selection. 

3. Digital Evidence of Cyber ​​Crime

Digital traces can be used at the stage of proving cybercrime cases. To collect and analyze digital traces on the perpetrator's computer, digital forensic methods are needed. 

Usually, this method is carried out with the help of various analytical applications such as Encase, Access Data FTK, Belkasoft, Autopsy, and many more.

While digital footprints have many benefits, there are still dangers involved. Anything, huh?

The Danger of a Digital Footprint

Some of the dangers that can arise with the presence of a digital footprint are:

1. Facilitate Data Theft

Leaving a digital footprint can open a loophole for criminals to steal your data. 

With a digital footprint, perpetrators can easily gain access to your important data. For example, home address, NIK, credit card data, and others, where such data can be misused for the perpetrator's interests. 

As in the case of the Add Yours trend on Instagram. Instagram users are invited to share small things that seem trivial, such as signatures, photo ID cards, or the name of their biological mother. Without realizing it, hackers can collect data from users who take part in the Add Yours challenge in this way. 

2. Crack Action Scam

One of the impacts of data theft is the occurrence of online fraud or scams. For example, in cases where the victim lost money because the scammer managed to convince the victim by using a childhood nickname as if the fraudster was a close relative.

3. Affect Professional Reputation

Recruiters use digital traces to identify signs that might indicate a candidate is not a good match for the job for which you are applying. According to cyber security firm Kaspersky, a third of job seekers stated that posts on social media had damaged their job prospects.

For example, in the case of a job applicant who was rejected by a recruiter because of his poor digital footprint. Despite having a high GPA, the applicant was not accepted for work because he had time to vent on social media with disrespectful words. 

How can you find out? Incidentally, his former boarding house father was one of the interviewers for the job applicant. The boarding man still has a screenshot of the applicant's tweet. 

So, you already know the dangers of a digital footprint, right? Then, how to remove this digital footprint? 

How to Erase Digital Traces

Here's how to remove digital traces you can do:

1. File a Content Removal Request on Google

Google implements the "right to be forgotten" or the right to be forgotten. So, Google will consider requests to remove content. For example, non-consensual explicit photos, financial data, to medical records.

To apply this method of erasing digital footprints, you must submit a form and provide proof of its content. Here are the steps:
  • Go to legal help on the Google Support page
  • Click "create a request"
  • Select the Google product where the content you want to remove is uploaded. For example, Google Search, Google Image, to YouTube
  • Write down the reasons for submitting content removal clearly and completely
  • Attach a link for each content you want to remove
  • Submit a deletion request form

2. Close Unused Old Accounts

Before you understand the dangers of digital footprints, you may just want to create an account that includes your full name, age, and location of residence. 

This can be an opportunity for cybercriminals to misuse your data for their gain. 

To avoid cybercrime, it would be better if these accounts were closed. Well, try to remember all your old accounts, be they social media, email, or game accounts. Then, delete these accounts. 

A little tricky? Don't worry, there is a shortcut that you can take to delete these accounts. How, by using the Justdelete.me application. With this application, you will be directly directed to the deletion page of your accounts.

3. Delete Old Uploads

As many as 45% of people regret uploading any kind of content to social media at a young age. Because, without them knowing it, they have uploaded sensitive information on social media. 

To remove this digital footprint, you can use several ways. For example for Twitter, you could use TweetDeleter

Or, for Facebook posts, you can delete your post by: 
  • Go to Settings & Privacy 
  • Click Activity Log 
  • Select the type of activity you want to delete such as post uploads or photo tags
  • Click manage and then delete the activity you selected. 

4. Delete Cookies

Cookies are information that contains track records and activities when visiting a website. This feature stores user settings or preferences for a website, such as a language choice, location, and user data, to search preferences on the website.

Although there are many conveniences to using cookies, this feature could be used to access your data by hackers.

That's why you need to frequently delete cookies in your browser. How to delete cookies for those of you who use Google Chrome is as follows:
  • Go to Browser Settings
  • Choose Privacy & Security
  • Click clear browsing data
  • Check the Cookies and other site data option
  • Click Clear data
Now that you know how to delete a digital track record, it's time for you to listen to the tips for managing a digital track record that you can apply below.

Tips for Managing a Digital Footprint

As a precaution, you need to know the following tips for managing a digital track record:

1. Using the Incognito Feature

One of the tips for managing a digital footprint is to use the incognito feature. Because, with this feature, the browser cannot record the pages you visit and the keywords you use in search engines. So, your digital track record will be automatically hidden.

2. Using a VPN

VPN is a connection service that can be a shield while you are surfing the internet. 

With a VPN, the data exchange that occurs when accessing the website will be hidden. So, online activities that can become your digital footprint will not be detected.

3. Not Just Sharing Personal Data

One of the dangers of a digital footprint is the theft of personal data. Later, this information can be misused for fraud on your behalf. It could also be that your personal information is used to register for an online loan by an irresponsible person.

Therefore, you should be more careful when sharing personal data. The thing to remember, only provide your data to trusted platforms, yes.

4. Rethink Before Uploading Content 

The last tip in managing a digital track record is to always think twice before uploading something on the internet. 

For example, when creating an Instagram Story, first check if there is any personal information in the photos you upload. No less important, choose good words when making captions to maintain a good image on social media.

Already Know the Dangers of Digital Footprints?

If the digital footprint is not managed properly, various dangers can lurk at you. For example, it is easy to get access to personal data which leads to opportunities for fraudulent actions.

Now, seeing the various dangers of digital footprints, many people are starting to be more careful in interacting on the internet. 

For business people who implement online marketing, this may be a little difficult for you to collect the data needed to create targeted ads. Therefore, for people to believe that your website is 100% safe, you must have a website that looks professional. 

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