In today's digital world, we all leave digital footprints online through the activities we conduct over the internet. Over time, these online activities create a record of our online activities. The digital age and the widespread use of technological devices, has brought significant changes to how we communicate, express ourselves and connect with others.
Whilst these online activities constitute valuable data to individuals and businesses it is equally crucial to protect our privacy from growing cyber threats.

This newsletter highlights the value of digital footprints and measures of protecting them against cyber threats.

1. What is a digital footprint?

A digital footprint refers to the trail of data that is left behind when someone interacts with digital systems or platforms on the internet. It includes all the information that can be associated with a particular user or entity online. This information may be shared intentionally, by the user or may be created passively, through website visits and online transactions.

A digital footprint may include various elements, such as social media activity; personal information you provide when registering on any online platform such as your name, address, and phone number; details of what you search for on search engines like Google and Yahoo; website visits including how long you stay and what actions you take; information related to items you buy online, including transaction details; email communication; information about your physical location, details about the devices you use to access the internet, such as computers, smartphones, or tablets, the IP address of the device used to connect the internet, amongst others.

2. What is the importance of having a digital footprint?

The importance of a digital footprint lies in its impact on personal and professional aspects of individuals' lives, as well as on organizations as described below:

  1. Employability: Employers often conduct online research on job candidates. Some employers are known to request online profile links of candidates to conduct a search. A positive and professionally managed digital footprint can enhance a person's employability. Conversely, a negative or unprofessional online presence may affect job prospects.
  2. Networking and Social Connections: Digital footprints facilitate social connections and networking. Platforms like LinkedIn, Twitter, and other professional networks rely on users' digital footprints to connect like-minded individuals, fostering professional relationships.
  3. Personal Branding: Individuals can use their digital footprints to build and promote a personal brand. This is particularly important for entrepreneurs, freelancers, and professionals looking to establish themselves in their respective fields.
  4. Marketing and Advertising: For businesses and organizations, understanding and leveraging digital footprints is crucial for targeted marketing and advertising. Analyzing user data helps tailor content and advertisements to specific demographics, improving the effectiveness of marketing efforts.
  5. Data Analytics and Research: Businesses and researchers use aggregated and anonymized digital footprint data for analytics and market research. This information can provide valuable insights into consumer behaviour, preferences, and trends.

3. How can a digital footprint be managed?

While it may not be possible to completely erase a digital footprint, individuals and organizations can take steps to manage and minimize their online presence in the following ways:

  1. Regularly reviewing and updating privacy settings on social media accounts, email, and other online platforms; adjusting the settings to control who can see your information and what they can see.
  2. Avoiding sharing sensitive personal information, and being cautious about posting private information which could be used to identify you, such as your full address or phone number.
  3. Ensuring the use of strong, unique passwords for online accounts by using a combination of letters, numbers, and symbols, and avoiding the use of easily accessible information such as one's name or birthdate. Also, regularly updating/changing your passwords and reviewing the activity on online accounts. If a platform offers two-factor authentication, it should be enabled for an extra layer of security.
  4. Limiting third-party app access as much as possible. Only give access to apps that you trust and need, and constantly review and revoke permissions for apps that are no longer used.
  5. The use of a Virtual Private Network (VPN) to encrypt one's internet connection should be considered as it can help protect information online, especially when using public Wi-Fi.
  6. A periodic online search of one's name or organization to see what information is publicly available should be conducted. This can help identify and address any information that is intended to be kept private.
  7. Consider the use of separate email addresses for different purposes (e.g., personal, work, subscriptions) to compartmentalize online presence.

Organizations can also manage their digital footprint by employing a combination of strategic planning, monitoring and proactive management steps such as:

  1. Regularly conduct a digital audit of all online platforms where the organization has a presence to ensure the information available aligns with the organization's values.
  2. Regularly update and review the organization's website content and endeavour to optimize website content for search engines (SEO) to control what appears in search results.
  3. Use monitoring tools and analytics to track the organization's online presence as well as setting up alerts for mentions or discussions related to the organization.
  4. Regularly assess the effectiveness of digital strategies and adjust as needed.
  5. Implementing strong cybersecurity measures to protect sensitive data.
  6. Regularly educate and test employees on data privacy and security best practices.
  7. Ensure compliance with relevant data protection regulations such the Nigeria Data Protection Act and other data protection regulations.


In conclusion, managing and mitigating a digital footprint is essential for individuals and organizations in the contemporary digital landscape. While complete eradication of a digital footprint may be impractical due to the complexities of online interactions, a strategic and proactive approach can significantly minimize potential risks.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.