We often hear the term ‘digital trace’ or ‘digital footprint’ but we have very little understanding of the plurality of the digital traces that we leave behind, or their social implications. A digital message always creates two sets of digital traces: deliberate and non-deliberate traces. On the one hand you have the content of the message, e.g. ‘my daughter’s first day of school’. On the other hand, you have the ‘metadata’, in other words the data about the data: e.g. the profile it was sent from, hour, location etc.
Through our everyday interaction we constantly produce digital traces, this is not only if we are ‘online’ but also if we work offline on a word document, if we use our credit cards, if we connect to a Wifi in a specific location. A short video by the Federal Trade Commission in the U.S. reveals the extent of the digital traces that we leave behind during a regular day.
When we think about digital traces then it is very common to feel powerless. Yet as the Myshadow.org project by the Technical-Tech Collective shows, there are ways in which we can retain some control of our digital traces. Their website is full of resources and ‘learn how’ guides. You can get a full picture of the multiplicity and complexity of the digital traces you leave behind by reading their section on ‘How Much Control we have on our Data‘. Through their Trace My Shadow tool you can gain an understanding of your digital traces. Their Control your Data guides are also particularly important.