Book Review from BCS


Reviewed by  Jude Umeh FBCS CITP

According to this book, everyone who uses digital technology and the web in particular will invariably leave behind a digital trail that might include such nuggets of information as personal details, online interactions, transactions and possibly location data.

This presents numerous challenges and opportunities, many of which are inter-linked (e.g. less privacy may allow for increased personalisation of user experience), however the biggest hurdle and prize remains is the question how businesses can balance and package that equation into an attractive / compelling proposition for an increasingly enlightened and empowered digital consumer.

The main thrust of this book is focused on the evolving landscape of threats and opportunities that are constantly thrown up around the question of just who owns your digital footprint (or data) and how to derive mutual benefit from exploiting that information. This is encapsulated in the author’s repeated use of the title phrase ‘My Digital Footprint’ to emphasise the fact that an individual’s digital footprint is directly linked to their identity and privacy, but that individuals aren’t yet fully empowered to hold and manage their own digital footprints.

This situation is only exacerbated by the increasing use of mobile devices and social networks, which greatly contribute to the erosion of individual privacy. This latter trend is examined to a large extent in most of the book, starting from Chapter 4, with several suggestions, arguments, questions and popular theories (e.g. Tim O’Reilly’s Principles of web 2.0), along with some new concepts and definitions of stuff like: behavioural DNA, two-sided business model and enrichment feedback loop, as well as more traditional ingredients such as trust, reputation, risk and privacy.

Overall, My Digital Footprint is an interesting, thought-provoking foray into the realm of digital identity and personal privacy, however, it appears to lose its way a little by attempting to take the discussion and narrative outside of the book. For example, the seventh chapter on ‘Rules, law and regulation’ offers up a solitary, poorly-written paragraph that invites the reader to log-on and register with the digital footprint website (complete with misspelt URL / web address) in order to access some links to further resources, insights and comments. Furthermore, the reader may have to pay a small fee if they wish to leave a comment.

Although it is clear that the author is simply trying to make My Digital Footprint more than ‘just a book’, in so doing he detracts from what otherwise should have been a great read, by delivering a less-than-seamless reader / user experience. In other words, the mechanism gets in the way of the experience, which in light of the subject matter is almost unforgivable, hence my score of 7 out of 10.