The Digital Identity Series (Part I): Why Does It Matter?

Before the advent of social media, the Internet was just a new and different way to get access to information. People would go online, to not only learn about local businesses but because it also offered the freedom and possibility to discover more about faraway worlds and different civilizations. Essentially, the Internet was then a one-way communication medium with users at the receiving end.

Since the birth of social media, we have noticed that online users have adopted a different approach to online browsing. Surfing the Internet is no longer a single matter of getting information but also a means to connect and share with familiar as well as unacquainted people. This implies that it is now a two-way communication where we, as users are also sharing all sorts of data about ourselves on the net. That trail of data we create while engaging with the virtual world is known as"Digital Footprint". And it can be either passive or active depending on our online activities.

According to TechTerms, a "passive digital footprint" refers to the data trail you unintentionally leave online. For instance, your IP address, ISP (Internet Service Provider) info, or your approximate location, logged by web servers while visiting a website. On the other hand, an "active digital footprint" is information intentionally put online, when either registering on social media and posting about yourself or even sending a simple email.

"Digital Identity could be defined as a set of unique identifiers and used patterns that make it possible to identify individuals or their devices." – Margaret Rouse (TechTarget)

Publishing an article, posting social media updates expand your digital footprint. Every photo shared on Instagram, every status update on Facebook, and every tweet on Twitter contributes to your digital footprint, as well as 'liking' or sharing posts. The more time spent social networking, the larger your digital footprint will be. It is that large digital footprint we leave over the years that makes up for our Digital Identity.

"Digital Identity could be defined as a set of unique identifiers and used patterns that make it possible to identify individuals or their devices." – Margaret Rouse (TechTarget)

This information is often used by website owners and advertisers to spot and track users for personalization and to present them with targeted content and advertising. Techopedia explains that, like its human equivalent, a digital identity is comprised of characteristics, or data attributes, such as:

  • Username and password

  • Date of birth

  • Online search activities, like electronic transactions

  • Medical history

  • Purchasing history or behavior

  • Social security number

Beyond this non-exhaustive list, Digital Identity is the online representation of physical entities – be it human, business, or government agency. It is important to ensure the protection of one's online reputation as well as the identity itself. Whatever we publish has the potential to be available online forever, so due diligence is of the utmost importance when posting online. Moreover, your digital identity can, more often than others be used to acquire personal info about you, such as political affiliations, religion, demographics, or general interests. So how can we ensure maximal digital identity protection in the virtual world? And how can you manage your digital identity and leave a strong digital footprint?

Due to the extensiveness related to this topic, we will develop more on the aforementioned questions in the second part of our series. We will discuss the impact of our online presence and address issues regarding our online safety and privacy while providing steps to protect our Digital Identity.

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