Extract from “My Digital Footprint”, this is from the Chapter 1 “The Big Picture”

This is a book about footprints – digital footprints to be precise. For the most part, unlike footprints in the sand, digital footprints are largely invisible and are about where we have been, for how long, how often and the inter-relationships. Digital footprints are a capture of memories and moments and are built from your interactions with mobile, web and TV. Digital footprints are not about your identity, your passport or bank account.

While the idea of digital footprints has existed for some time, this book extends the current body of knowledge on this subject in two specific ways, by considering the digital footprint as part of a real-time feedback loop and the impact of mobile devices on digital footprints. In an open loop system the digital footprint is part of behavioural or targeted marketing based on collecting and analysing data, but the closed loop model, as described within, is an entirely different animal and raises a provocative question: Is your digital footprint yours or someone else’s business?

In conventional terms, digital footprints are the digital ‘cookie crumbs’ that we all leave when we use some form of digital service, application, appliance, object or device, or in some cases as we pass through or by, this happens regardless of whether we are actually cognisant of this. We intuitively accept, when forced to think about it, that these traces exist and we somehow expect that, over time, the waves will wash over the digital footprints to erase them like the ones on the beach – but they are not. Like everything on the web, digital data cannot be washed away, it remains forever, but we could actually benefit from taking control of our own digital footprint.

This chapter provides a context to identity, privacy and other widely debated issues that get bundled together as part of the digital footprint. There is both good and some very poor work available on identity and privacy; this summary is presented as an overview to provide the context of how identity (physical and digital) and privacy are related and connected to  MY DIGITAL FOOTPRINT. In the simplicity of this big picture, I hope to highlight some of the key themes that lead to the black holes of debate and strong opinion without glibly or underemphasising some, rightly, contested issues.

Identity is not simple, but, at a very high level, it provides the person on the street with a name, driving licence, bank account, credit history, social security and certain certification from both government and non-government organisations. Whilst identity for the average person is seen as regulated and institution-controlled; privacy is emotional, a preference, determined by status but constrained by regulation and law. Digital versions of identity and privacy are in the most terms not even considered by Mr Average; leaving a digital footprint as a term that is not even contemplated. Defining MY DIGITAL FOOTPRINT is therefore complex, but this book suggests: collection, store, analysis and value created from digital data from mobile, web and TV. Additional collect points for data such as Near Field Connection cards (NFC) (e.g. Oyster in London) and non-web financial transactions will be added at a later stage.

The following chapter outlines the links between digital and physical identity connections and dependencies, as set out in Figure 1 below. This section then leads on to the connections between identity and MY DIGITAL FOOTPRINT.


Figure 1 Digital and physical identity connections

Identity is split between ‘digital’ and ‘physical’. This split is important as there is a need to explore their different and similar characteristics. As explained later, MY DIGITAL FOOTPRINT (in this book) only relates to the digital side, but digital identity does have some strong dependencies on physical identity.

Digital and physical identities are related through certain bridges and bonds. These are couplings that allow the two forms of identity to have value. Bridges are direct connections that allow someone to use either form of identity for a single purpose, such as using your bank card for digital and physical transactions. Bonds are not the direct relationship between the digital and physical, but are bonds which allow the two to be related, as certain key information is held in both that allow the connection to be made. Both bridges and bonds have certain dependencies. These dependencies are privacy, risk and trust.

Digital and physical identities are also related to each other by either relationships or reputation. Facebook, MySpace, Friends reunited, Plaxo, Linkedin deliver relationships between the physical you (what you did and with whom) and the digital you. Indeed, you could see this as ‘bond and bridge’. As you trust someone from the past, you connect with them, this restores your relationship and improves your reputation (you are who you say you are).

The purpose of this book is not to explore these connections but to observe that they exist, as this is needed to help define what MY DIGITAL FOOTPRINT is, in relation to certain traits and characteristics of identity.


You can read the full chapter here

You can read the entire book here

You can buy the book here