Technology has evolved to become personable and “smart” as consumers have adopted it. Due to this personalization, users trust technology with more personal information without recognizing that they are leaving a more extensive digital footprint. People increasingly want to interact with technology, but they don’t want their personal information exposed. Privacy and anonymity are no longer problems for criminals or the wealthy; they now touch everyone. If information is the treasure, then knowledge is the new gold.
Technology and personal data appear to be inseparably linked. There is disconnection between users’ trust in intrusive technology and their comprehension of how much personal information these technologies reveal. While the public is more aware of privacy in cyberspace nowadays, nothing is known about monitoring and redacting data that has already been published online. A unique email address is just as likely to be registered on a shopping website as a mobile banking one. It’s virtually impossible to note where and how much personal data is accessible in the public domain because so many aspects of technology access various bits of personally identifiable information. Furthermore, it cannot be easy to redact material once made public. With the rampant use of technology, it’s more vital than ever to be cautious of sharing personal information.
LEAVING DIGITAL TRAIL
Ever wondered how Google manages to forecast flu outbreaks ahead of health officials? Why are these forecasts sometimes inaccurate? How did amazon correlate a surge in mithai sales to optimistic predictions? How can a single unintentionally collected bit of data be much more revealing than gigabytes of public records? What type of information does Netflix utilize to create profiles? What did historian Marc Bloch mean when he said that “witnesses despite themselves”?
The conference focuses on a specific but essential subject in the social sciences: the concepts of “footprint” and “trace” to provide scientifically solid answers and promote analytically new conversation. The idea of footprints is often linked with the cyber realm. Yet, it distinctly signifies what one leaves behind without realizing it—an impression a by-product of earlier activities that remain etched on digital reality. In light of this, the difference between actively conveyed information and information that is mistakenly vented appears to be significant, identifying two fundamentally distinct types of communication forms. Traceable information has a market, especially in this age of digital capitalism. The caliber to grasp the trails left by people, grinding social reality “against the grain,” opens up a new plot for social theory and practical social research: what are the stakes? What are the potential dangers?
Research on digital footprints should incorporate multiple methodological techniques. Representative questionnaires could be used to measure digital skills relating to privacy settings and platform algorithms. Qualitative interviews coupled with social media profiles review could also be beneficial. Respondents could discuss what they had posted and what others had submitted, as well as the platform itself, during interviews. Furthermore, using a search engine could enhance discussions by allowing respondents to trace their digital footprints. Interviews with social groups that are discretely affected by digital traces could educate themselves about digital footprints usage. Young users and micro-celebrities are groups that should be investigated. Such actor-centric methodologies could be influential “social analytics,” which is how individuals “reflect on, and change, their online profile and the actions that feed into it, using analytics.” Furthermore, media content studies of negative passive involvement, such as online harassment and doxing, may substantially aid in selecting a case study. Finally, digital methods and software studies may provide crucial insights into how platforms generate data, which may have ramifications for digital inequalities.
Digital footprints, as a new facet of digital inequality, links to a wider academic and social conversation on societies and technologies’ shared dependencies. While a digital inequality study has investigated the systems that connect intentional and unintentional ICTs, it has not addressed this link. it is suggested that digital footprints should be considered in examined in the context of digital information and social justice. Systematic analysis of digital footprints would also allow practical recommendations, specifically in inclusive platform structure. The creation of goods and services, buildings, services, and websites accessible to all citizens, especially to the elderly and physically challenged, is widely recognized as a critical component of a genuinely blanket society. Similarly, online platforms should be designed not simply to be accessible but also to avoid forging a “digital footprint gap.” Underprivileged and marginalized groups, in particular, may be given a prominent voice, while individuals who are particularly prone to abuse or exploitation as a result of their digital footprints could be better safeguarded.
Author –Shrey Madaan – Research Associate, Cyber Peace Foundation