Digital footprints, ranging from the information users wittingly share online to less conspicuous details, continue to expand as we advance further into the digital era. With every new stroke of the keyboard, online purchase, video streaming, or social media post, our digital footprints amass more data that can impact our privacy, security and finances.
There are 5.16 billion internet users in the world today, or roughly 64% percent of the population with a unique digital footprint, regardless of how much time they spend online, what apps they download and which social media platforms they use.
The social media phenomenon has also developed over the last 12 months, and a recent study examines the extent to which digital nomads create and maintain active digital footprints throughout their lifetime.
According to researchers, the average adult willingly shares 276 posts on Instagram, 170 on Facebook, and 141 tweets every year, amounting to an active digital footprint containing 9,828 photos, 10,811 social media posts, and 126 email addresses throughout a lifetime.
The latest Digital 2023 Global Overview Report sheds even more light on global social media behaviors. The study shows that social media usage grew 3% in 2022, with 4.76 billion active users (60% of the global population), who now spend more than two and half hours per day navigating these platforms.
And, while the average number of social media accounts per user varies depending on location, age and gender, the latest stats show that internet users may engage with more than 7 platforms each month, including fan favorites such as Facebook, YouTube, WhatsApp, Instagram, WeChat and Tik-Tok.
Despite users spending more time on social media platforms, the study also uncovered the top online activities of working-age internet users. Researchers found that about 6 in 10 people (57.8%) still turn to online resources when looking for information ahead of other digital-enabled activities such as communicating with friends and family (53.7%), reading the news (50.9%) and watching videos (49.7%).
Although digital shadows form a clear picture of users’ online interests, enabling companies to target them with ads, they also serve the pursuits of additional third parties, including potential employers, educational establishments and even criminals.
Nefarious individuals can enjoy numerous financial benefits from your digital footprint and oversharing, significantly impacting the privacy, online reputation and identity of others.
An analysis of Bitdefender’s Digital Identity Protection data revealed that 57% of the community have over 12 data entry points exposed online, and an alarming 16% have over 50 instances of personal info up for grabs in the digital world. This includes home addresses, URLs linking to social media platforms, job titles and workplaces, names, usernames, email addresses and phone numbers.
Online exposure also increases via data breaches and leaks that continue to fuel cybercriminal activity and fraud. Over 27% of Bitdefender Digital Identity Protection users were victims of more than 12 data breaches in the past decade, with isolated cases approaching a record-breaking 100.
Users with highly active digital footprints are also prone to impersonation, with nearly 4% of Digital Identity Protection users confirming real impersonation cases leveraging their online identity.
Being careless with your digital privacy and personal information leaves you susceptible to risks, including scams, phishing, harassment, bullying and fraud.
Becoming aware of the digital you is vital to thwarting security and privacy threats whenever you go online. Platforms with a vested interest in your data are the most vulnerable since they hold a variety of personal info that can be easily exploited.
To help reduce your digital footprint and the negative impact on your cybersecurity, it’s recommended that you:
To paint a picture of your digital identity and find out what key pieces have been exposed in data breaches and leaks over the years, check Bitdefender's Digital Identity Protection.
Our identity protection helps you take measures to control, manage and protect the digital you with real-time notifications that alert you when your data ends up in legal or illegal data collections of info online, or if someone is impersonating you. You also get expert recommendations to fix any privacy issues and an easy way to track down any older accounts you might have forgotten about to stay a step ahead of malicious activity and protect your financial livelihood.
Stop guessing what the internet knows about you and how you can protect your identity with Bitdefender Digital Identity Protection!