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  • 15 February 2024
  • 10 min read

Is it possible to manage and safeguard your digital footprint?

What is your digital footprint? How important is managing your digital footprint? And best practice for protecting your digital footprint both personally and professionally.
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Our online presence generates a digital fingerprint, leaving behind a trail of our interactions, preferences, and activities. But as our lives become increasingly dependent on the digital realm, the question must be asked: Can we truly maintain control over our digital footprints amidst the vast expanse of cyberspace and the constant torrent of cyber threats, risks, and emerging technology?

Join us on a journey to explore the intricacies of digital footprints, uncover why they matter, and discover how cyber security training and awareness can empower individuals and organisations to safeguard their online identities.

What is your digital footprint?

Your digital footprint is the digital trail you leave behind as you navigate the online world. It is a comprehensive record of your interactions, activities, and behaviours across various digital platforms. From social media posts and website clicks to online e-commerce purchases and email correspondence, every click and keystroke contributes to the makeup of your digital identity.

  • Who holds it: Your digital footprint is held by a variety of entities, including social media platforms, search engines, online retailers, government agencies, and third-party data brokers (both with permission and without permission) – a 2020 NordPass study, cited here by TechRadar, suggested the average internet user has around 100 online accounts that hold their information.
  • Who sees it: Depending on your privacy settings and security measures, your digital footprint can be visible to a wide range of individuals and organisations. Friends, family, employers, advertisers, and even cybercriminals may have access to various aspects of your digital presence.
  • Who uses it: Your digital footprint can be utilised by marketers for targeted advertising, employers for background checks, and researchers for data analysis. However, cybercriminals may also exploit your digital footprint for nefarious purposes, such as identity theft, financial fraud, and social engineering attacks.
  • The pros and cons: Your digital footprint offers numerous benefits, including enhanced connectivity, personalised experiences, and access to valuable resources. However, it also poses significant risks, such as privacy breaches, reputational damage, and exposure to cyber threats.

Are there different types of digital footprint?

Understanding the distinct types of digital footprints is essential for comprehensively managing your online presence. Let us explore the two primary categories:

Active digital footprint: Your active digital footprint consists of the data intentionally shared by you through your online interactions. These actions are purposeful and typically involve direct engagement with digital platforms. This includes:

  • Social media posts and interactions: Every status update, photo upload, comment, like, and share on social media platforms adds to your active digital footprint. Meltwater data reveals that there were 57.10 million social media users in the United Kingdom in January 2023. More broadly, 86% of the United Kingdom’s total internet user base used at least one social media platform in January 2023.
  • Online reviews and comments: Reviews left on websites, forums, and e-commerce platforms reflect your opinions and experiences, shaping your digital identity and influencing others' perceptions.
  • Email communications: Your email correspondence, including sent and received messages, attachments, and contact lists, forms part of your active digital footprint. The number of e-mails sent and received globally has increased each year since 2017. In 2022, there were an estimated 333 billion e-mails sent and received daily around the world. This figure is projected to increase to 392.5 billion daily e-mails by 2026 (Statista).

Passive digital footprint: Your passive digital footprint comprises data collected passively as a result of your online activities, often without your explicit consent or awareness. These traces are generated in the background as you navigate the internet. This includes:

  • Website visits and browsing history: Every website you visit, every link you click, and every page you view leaves a digital trace in the form of your browsing history. This data is often stored by web browsers and internet service providers for various purposes, including targeted advertising and analytics.
  • Cookies and tracking technologies: Cookies, web beacons, and other tracking technologies collect information about your online behaviour, preferences, and device characteristics. These data points enable website personalisation, ad targeting, and user tracking across different online platforms.
  • IP addresses and device identifiers: Your IP address and device identifiers, such as MAC addresses and device fingerprints, uniquely identify your devices on the internet. These identifiers can be used to track your online activities, approximate your geographical location, and customise content delivery.

Proactively managing both types of footprints is essential for maintaining privacy, security, and control over personal information in the digital age. As cyber security expert Bruce Schneier aptly stated, "Data is a toxic asset, and the more data you have, the more toxic it becomes."

Why is it important to protect your digital footprint?

Safeguarding your digital footprint is paramount to protecting your privacy, security, and reputation online. Let us delve into the compelling reasons why:

  1. Safeguard sensitive information: Your digital footprint contains a treasure trove of personal and sensitive data, ranging from financial information and medical records to passwords and private communications. Protecting your digital identity ensures that cybercriminals are unable to easily access your data.
  2. Shield data ammo from phishers and hackers: Cybercriminals often exploit digital footprints as ammunition for targeted attacks, phishing scams, and social engineering tactics. By mining publicly available information from your digital footprint, attackers can craft convincing phishing emails, manipulate social media interactions, and impersonate trusted entities to deceive unsuspecting victims. Vigilantly protecting your digital footprint helps starve cybercriminals of valuable data and reduces the likelihood of falling victim to their malicious schemes.
  3. Maintain online reputation: Your digital footprint directly influences your online reputation, shaping how others perceive and interact with you in the digital realm. According to a new CareerBuilder survey, 70 percent of employers use social media to screen candidates before hiring. Negative or inappropriate content found within your digital footprint can tarnish your reputation, jeopardise professional opportunities, and damage personal relationships. Proactively managing your digital presence and promoting positive online behaviour is essential for cultivating a favourable reputation and building trust.
  4. Meet legal compliance and avoid legal ramifications: With the proliferation of data protection regulations such as the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA), individuals and organisations are legally obligated to safeguard personal data and respect user privacy rights. Failure to protect your digital footprint and comply with relevant regulations can result in severe legal consequences, including fines, lawsuits, and reputational damage. For example, In May 2023, the Irish Data Protection Commission (DPC) imposed a historic fine of €1.2 billion on US tech giant Meta, for transferring personal data of European users to the United States without adequate data protection mechanisms. By adhering to best practices for digital security and privacy, you can mitigate legal risks, demonstrate compliance, and uphold ethical standards in your online interactions.
  5. Preserving personal boundaries: Your digital footprint extends beyond your online activities to encompass aspects of your offline life as well, such as location data from mobile devices and smart devices. Protecting your digital footprint helps maintain boundaries between your virtual and physical worlds, preserving your privacy and autonomy. Without adequate safeguards, individuals may inadvertently expose sensitive details about their daily routines, habits, and whereabouts, making them vulnerable to surveillance, stalking, and intrusions into their personal lives.
  6. Enhancing digital literacy and critical thinking: Protecting your digital footprint requires developing a nuanced understanding of online privacy, security, and digital literacy. By actively managing your digital presence, you cultivate essential skills in evaluating the credibility of online sources, discerning between legitimate and fraudulent communications, and making informed decisions about sharing personal information online. Promoting digital literacy empowers individuals to navigate the complexities of the digital landscape confidently, resist manipulation, and advocate for their privacy rights in an increasingly digital society.
  7. Fostering trust and accountability: In both personal and professional contexts, safeguarding your digital footprint fosters trust, transparency, and accountability in your interactions with others. By demonstrating a commitment to responsible digital citizenship and respecting others' privacy boundaries, you contribute to a culture of mutual trust and respect online. Conversely, negligence in protecting your digital footprint can erode trust, breed suspicion, and undermine relationships, both online and offline. Upholding ethical standards in your digital interactions builds credibility, strengthens relationships, and fosters a sense of collective responsibility for maintaining a safe and secure online environment.

A study involving 2,000 British citizens revealed that a substantial 10% of Britons lost money to scams or identity theft in the last 12 months, highlighting just how important your digital footprint is. By recognising the importance of protecting your digital footprint and taking proactive measures to secure your online presence, you can safeguard your privacy, defend against cyber threats, and maintain control over your digital identity.

How to protect your digital footprint?

Safeguarding your digital footprint is essential for preserving privacy, security, and control over your online identity. Adopting best practices can help mitigate risks and minimise exposure to cyber threats. Here is a comprehensive guideline to enhance your digital security posture:

  1. Implement Two-Factor Authentication (2FA) or Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA): Enable 2FA or MFA wherever available to add an extra layer of security to your online accounts. This additional verification step helps prevent unauthorised access, even if your password is compromised.
  2. Exercise caution when navigating online: An estimated 12.8 million websites are infected with malware worldwide. Avoid visiting unsafe websites or clicking on suspicious links that may contain malware, phishing scams, or other cyber threats. Verify the legitimacy of websites before entering sensitive information.
  3. Enhance password security: Create strong, unique passwords for each online account and use a reputable password manager to securely store and manage your credentials. Regularly update passwords and avoid using easily guessable information, such as birthdates or common words.
  4. Review and set social media privacy settings: Regularly review and adjust your social media privacy settings to control who can view your posts, photos, and personal information. Limit the visibility of your profile to friends and acquaintances and be cautious about sharing sensitive details publicly.
  5. Consider pseudonyms on social media: Minimise the exposure of your real identity on social media platforms by using pseudonyms or nicknames instead of your full name. This practice helps protect your privacy and reduces the risk of identity theft or online harassment.
  6. Separate professional and personal emails: Maintain separate email accounts for professional and personal use to compartmentalise your digital footprint and minimise the risk of cross-contamination. Use professional email addresses for work-related communications and personal accounts for private correspondence.
  7. Regularly delete unused accounts: Periodically review and delete old or unused social media and email accounts to reduce the amount of personal information exposed online. Unused accounts may become targets for cyber-attacks or data breaches if left unattended.
  8. Practice vigilant logout: Ensure that you log out of your accounts both publicly and privately, especially when using shared devices or public computers. This precautionary measure helps prevent unauthorised access and protects your sensitive information from prying eyes.
  9. Exercise caution when linking accounts: Think carefully before linking accounts like Google or Facebook to other online profiles, as this can increase the risk of data breaches and privacy violations. Avoid granting unnecessary permissions and regularly review connected apps and services.
  10. Utilise secure browsing practices: Employ secure browsing techniques, such as using HTTPS-enabled websites, to encrypt data transmitted between your device and the server. Consider using privacy-focused web browsers and browser extensions to enhance online security.
  11. Manage and limit location sharing: Be mindful of location-sharing features on mobile devices and social media platforms. Disable location services for apps that do not require them, and carefully consider the implications of sharing your whereabouts with others.
  12. Utilise Virtual Private Networks (VPNs): Use VPNs to encrypt your internet traffic and anonymise your online activities, especially when accessing public Wi-Fi networks or browsing sensitive information. VPNs provide an additional layer of security and privacy protection.
  13. Regularly clear history, cache, and cookies: Clear your browsing history, cache, and cookies regularly to remove traces of your online activities and minimise the risk of unauthorised tracking or profiling by advertisers and data brokers.
  14. Exercise caution with mobile applications: Be cautious when downloading and using mobile applications, especially those that request excessive permissions or access to sensitive data. Review app permissions and consider alternative options that prioritise user privacy and security.
  15. Beware of public wi-fi risks: Exercise caution when using public Wi-Fi networks, as they may pose security risks such as eavesdropping, man-in-the-middle attacks, and data interception. Avoid accessing sensitive information or logging into accounts on unsecured networks.
  16. Embrace data encryption: Encrypt sensitive data stored on your devices and transmitted over the internet to prevent unauthorised access and ensure confidentiality. Use encryption tools and protocols such as SSL/TLS, PGP, and BitLocker to secure your digital assets.
  17. Stay educated and aware of emerging threats: Stay informed about evolving cyber threats, emerging attack vectors, and best practices for digital security. Regularly update your knowledge through reputable sources, cyber security awareness training, and threat intelligence resources.
  18. Exercise caution with surveys and questionnaires: Be wary of surveys and questionnaires that collect personal data and addresses, especially from unknown or untrusted sources. Avoid disclosing sensitive information unless absolutely necessary and verify the legitimacy of the survey provider.
  19. Exercise your legal rights: Familiarise yourself with data protection laws such as the EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and exercise your legal right to request the deletion of your data from specific providers. Utilise mechanisms such as the "Right to be forgotten" to enhance control over your digital footprint and protect your privacy rights.
  20. Practice digital minimalism: Embrace the philosophy of digital minimalism to reduce your online footprint and streamline your digital interactions. By adopting a minimalist approach to digital consumption, you can limit your exposure to online risks and enhance your privacy and security. Conduct a thorough assessment of your digital activities and identify areas where you can reduce unnecessary online engagement.

By adopting these best practices and incorporating them into your digital habits, you can effectively protect your digital footprint, mitigate cyber risks, and preserve your privacy and security. Remember that proactive measures and ongoing vigilance are key to maintaining a resilient and secure online presence.


As a trusted provider of cyber security training and awareness, we recognise the critical importance of protecting your digital footprint in today's digital landscape. Your online presence is more than just a collection of data—it is a reflection of your identity, privacy, and security and can compromise your organisation’s network.

At TSC, our mission is to equip employees and organisations with the knowledge, skills, and resources needed to defend against cyber threats and safeguard their digital identities through a variety of channels, materials, and mediums. We are committed to staying at the forefront of cyber security trends, providing up-to-date training programs and initiatives, and empowering our clients to navigate the complexities of the digital age with confidence and resilience.

Working with the right partner

Partnering with a trusted cyber security training and awareness company, such as The Security Company Ltd. (TSC), is crucial. With 25 years of experience, TSC specialises in enhancing security behaviours, fostering a robust security culture, and raising awareness of threats and risks across global organisations.

The dynamic nature of cyber threats necessitates a comprehensive and adaptive cyber security strategy for UK law firms. By understanding the evolving threat landscape and investing in robust training and awareness initiatives, decision-makers can fortify their organisations against potential risks and cyberattacks.

At The Security Company, we specialise in boosting cyber awareness, targeted training, customised projects and role-based solutions. Through our tailored subscription services, targeted and customised eLearning and awareness materials and our behavioural assessments, we're committed to helping organisations like yours instil long-term, security-conscious behaviours.

Our method is distinct. We begin by diving deep into your team's current mindset, pinpointing lax behaviours, security gaps and departments in need of focus and attention. From there, we craft tailored solutions that encourage better cyber practices from your employees. With comprehensive training and seamless integration into your current systems, we're here to fortify your team against modern cyber threats and be your trusted cyber security and awareness partner.

Ready to take the next step?

We can help you to formulate an effective and comprehensive cyber security training and awareness program for your organisation year-round and be your dedicated partner for employee behaviour change and, ultimately, security culture change.

Do not hesitate to contact us for further information.

Written by
Nas Ali
Cyber security and awareness content creator focused on emerging threats and the next wave of cyber security risks like AI, deepfakes and tech 4.0 initiatives in order to build towards a more secure organisational culture.
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