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What is your digital footprint?

Written by: Media Analyst, Reid Cobb

https://developers.google.com/analytics/terms/branding-policy

It’s not the footprint you are probably thinking of, but still extremely relevant.

Imagine you have a random person following your every move in real life. What you eat, where you go, whom you talk to, what you wear, etc. This is more or less what browsing the internet is like. Hidden trackers are set up to record your data every step of the way, and they are nearly impossible to avoid.


Data


But what is data? ‘Digital Footprint’ is a rather broad term that can refer to a multitude of things. For instance, if you are logged in to your Google account (if you have not disabled certain settings) Google can record your location, browsing history, demographics, and email usage.


A common tool businesses use to help track data is a platform called Google Analytics. This can enable a marketer to see every action performed on their website. For instance, you can get a second by second breakdown of where users are on your site. You can get their information regarding what they like to buy, their age, gender, location, and what categories they frequent on the web.


The most important aspect of this is done through cookies. Cookies are pieces of data from a website stored on a user’s computer that tracks activity on a website. These cookies can also recognize when a user returns to a website. However, if you were to clear your history and cookies, access the website from another browser, or access it from a different device, it would not recognize you as the same user. Using these cookies is the integral piece of the puzzle that is Google Analytics.


So What?


Why does this matter? Should you care that websites are doing this with your activity? Will this lead to malicious activity? The fact of the matter is that it has been here for a while, and will be here forever. The good news is that the data you create is not individualized. What do I mean by that?


To form insights for digital campaigns they need a wide selection of data. In this case, the data is coming from you. Your actions are combined with thousands, if not millions, of users to create and visualize audience trends. So while they may track you, it is not to get information about you, but about people like you.


This is a simplified explanation of the vast world of data information. This is also only one avenue of how your data is process, collected, and used. Data collection is very broad and a common occurrence. However, it is important for you to understand how this works because it will be present in your everyday life for the foreseeable future.