Extract from “My Digital Footprint”, this is from the Chapter 3 “Digital Footprints”

Like Neil Armstrong, whilst walking on the moon, and Nelson Mandela walking free from Robben Island, we all leave footprints. Footprints are more than identity. Footprints are about where we have been, for how long, how often and the inter-relationships, they are memories and moments. Therefore, digital footprints are not about your identity, your passport, bank account or social security number. Digital footprints come from your mobile, web and TV interactions and comprise the digital data and also the Metadata[i]  (data about data) of who we are, the true value and why the ownership of this data class is the battleground to be won and lost.


However, the original web-based digital footprint and its digital data belonged to the individual at some point. But the individual is currently not empowered to hold or manage this digital footprint. Mobile adds a unique dimension to the digital footprint since mobile provides new content, Metadata and the social context for the digital footprint. In contrast, both TV and the web can provide some data – but the mobile device is unique in terms of its contribution to our digital footprint. This idea is illustrated in Figure 6. The taps and the volume of water that flows is a visual representation of the amount of value that can be created from user data. The water fills a pool which is the representation of the digital data that is stored about you from your interactions.

Data from Broadcast/Listen include: viewing times and schedules, preferences for channels and content, timing of programmes and presence (are you actually there, this could be determined through motion, channel hopping, fast forward or a secondary device, PC or mobile listening to your TV preference).

Data from the web includes: attention, how long you read a page for, browsing history, search words and spelling, patterns and clicks, content created or viewed and purchases (consume). Data from a mobile would include: location, attention, browsing, search, time, who you are with (Bluetooth), proximity, clicks, creation of data and media, consumer, play lists and presence. The actual raw data could be location co-ordinate, a click, two-way interactions or a picture; the size of the tap and subsequent flow represents the volume of data that can be added to the digital footprint pool.

Figure 6 Value from mobile, TV and web

From digital footprints to MY DIGITAL FOOTPRINT

The idea of digital footprints has been discussed from a privacy or data protection standpoint. However, key commentators agree that we are increasingly leaving larger digital footprints over time, especially given the rise of popular social networks and mobile devices.

A digital footprint is the persistence of data trails online by a user’s activity in a digital environment – which Nicholas Negroponte called the ‘slug trail’ in Being Digital and John Battelle calls the ‘Clickstream exhaust’[ii] .

According to the Pew Internet report[iii] , there are two main classifications for digital footprints: passive digital footprints and active digital footprints. A passive digital footprint is created when data is collected about an action without any client activation (implicit) and include data from sensors; whereas active digital footprints are created when a user deliberately releases personal data for the purpose of sharing information about himself (explicit).

On the web, many interactions, such as creating a social networking profile or commenting on a picture on Flickr, leaves a digital footprint. In a mobile context, CDRs (Call Data Records) are the transactional data that constitute the user’s digital footprint. But the mere availability of transactional data alone is not enough since privacy and data protection rules will apply to the usage of data, and rightly so. It is the ability to store, analyse and create value from the digital footprint that differentiates the study of digital footprints. In other words, if we all left digital footprints – and nothing happened to those footprints – then there are no concerns and no benefits.

Hence, in this book, we present a definition of digital footprints to include capture, store, analysis and value. The ‘capture’ phase includes not only your own activity – but also the activity of others related to that information element – for instance, the impact of your social graph and third parties on the digital footprint. This idea is depicted in Figure 7.

Figure 7 Defining the components that create a digital footprint in simple terms

The capture of data itself arises from multiple sources and importantly not only from the data created by the person but by sensors in or connected to devices. The storage of the digital footprint relates to where raw data is stored physically, it’s the ownership and portability [the analysis is also stored but cannot be reversed to create raw data again and identify the user, the location, the service, the purchase or anything unique]. Analysis is the key differentiator in terms of where wealth could be created and in turn leads to the potential value available to both the user and the service providers.


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