More and more users are connected to the Internet – almost 5 billion last year. Every user and every device leaves a footprint on the Internet, which is called the digital footprint.

What is a digital footprint?

This is information about any user’s actions on the Internet – visits to sites, browsing different pages of one site, filling out a profile, registering with a dating service, installing an application and much more.

All of this data is stored by messenger operators, Internet service providers, hosting companies, and the servers of corporations such as Google, Facebook, Amazon and others. The more we do online, the larger our digital footprint becomes.

The digital shadow

In addition to the digital footprint, there is also the digital shadow. The difference between them is that a user can control the digital footprint, for example, by turning off his cell phone or computer, but the digital shadow cannot.

An example of a digital shadow is getting caught in the field of view of city surveillance cameras. A person can get caught in the footage of dozens or hundreds of devices a day. You can, for example, get caught in the lens of a Yandex car camera filming the streets or a traffic surveillance system on the road.

Famous people – athletes, movie actors, politicians – cast particularly clear digital shadows. They are watched closely, their actions are recorded. It is impossible to control this process.

Are the digital footprint and digital shadow dangerous?

Users’ information is sold, stolen and modified. For example, the social network Facebook sold user data to several dozen companies – advertising agencies, insurers and smartphone manufacturers. The latter include Amazon, Blackberry, Microsoft, Samsung and others.
Also, intelligence agencies, law enforcement agencies, commercial companies, politicians, cyber criminals are interested in information about users.

China works most actively with digital data of its citizens. There is so-called social rating of citizens in Celestial Empire. Above all in the ranking are law-abiding people who have no record of police, no delinquency on loans, no traffic violations and other problems. Below all are the most vicious violators of the law, social norms and law and order. A man who leads an antisocial way of life, doesn’t pay the loans, often violates traffic regulations, can not even be let out of his own city, not to mention another country.

Cybercriminals are interested in information which can help them get access to savings, corporate secrets and compromising information. Once they have some information about a person, attackers can blackmail the victim or use social engineering techniques.

Commercial companies buy huge databases of users of various services, analyze this information, and form advertising proposals based on people’s preferences.

Online hygiene

To minimize your digital footprint, the main thing is to behave intelligently, do not leave particularly emotional comments, which you may regret later. Don’t post personal photos, be polite and unbiased to other users. Remember – there is no anonymity anymore, and careless comment, personal photo, registration on some site can cause trouble in the future.

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