Understanding your digital shadow

This resource will explain online privacy, and how your online behaviour leaves digital traces.

What are data traces?

Through your computer, mobile phone, and other digital devices, you leave behind hundreds of digital traces (also called data traces) every day: bits of information about you that are created, stored and collected.

When this data is collected it forms a profile of you; think of this profile as your digital shadow. The traces you leave behind aren't limited to information you knowingly share, like status updates or pictures of your holiday.

They also include information about which sites you've visited, what you've searched for, and even where you've logged in from.

These traces can give give others huge insight into your life and they can also be totally wrong.The video below goes into more details about the concept of a digital shadow.

Me and my Shadow

What is a digital shadow?

Web tracking isn’t always bad — personal data can make your browsing more personalised, and provide advertising revenue for sites you like. But it’s your right to know what data is being collected about you.

— Mark Surman, Mozilla

Watch the video and think about:

  • How your data is collected?
  • Who is collecting it?
  • How much control you have over what happens to this data?
  • What you can do about it.

Understanding digital tracking

While it can be challenging to discover all the traces you leave behind, it's not impossible!

The Trace My Shadow tool can help you identify these traces and give you some idea about the traces you leave behind.

What traces do you leave behind?

How does the Trace My Shadow tool suggest you manage them?

What can I do about it?

Living life in the digital age can often feel like a trade-off. Online businesses and organisations often require our personal information in return for goods and services.

For example social media platforms often require you have an account with them to use their services. This requires that you agree to the terms and conditions which gives them permission to collect your data.

So where do you draw the line and how do you manage this?

The reality is that there's no one definitive answer, in the long term, the best way to improve your privacy is to change your online habits.


This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.