More and more, people from all walks of life are starting to be concerned about their digital footprint, both in terms of what they are leaving on the web and the organizations that might be looking into it.

If the concept is new to you, your “digital footprint” is easy to explain: It’s the trail you leave behind, digitally speaking, every time you visit a website, make an online transaction, enter a search query, and so on. As individual pieces, it’s just useless bits of data.

This data when it comes to business, can be important in terms of helping to legitimize a company and having profiles on the major social media outlets like LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter is part of that in addition to a website, online contribution on blogs etc. This is all good stuff, however…

Viewed and studied over time, though, it could easily be used to put together a picture of a person’s private life, including their medical records, political views, sexual orientation, spending patterns, career aspirations, and so on. So striking a balance between business relevance and personal info is key.

When considered in that light, it’s easy to see how your digital footprint can quickly become a matter of privacy. It’s also easy to see why it could be something that government agencies, employers, and marketers (just to use a few of the more obvious examples) might have an interest in.

So, should you worry about your digital footprint? And can you even control what you leave behind? Here are a few things to consider:

Almost anything you do over the Internet theoretically adds to your digital footprint. Although it might not ever be accessed or studied, things like Google searches, online comments, cookies from websites visited, and ads clicked on could all become part of your digital footprint and reveal information about you.

There are some steps you can take to cover your tracks. Using software packages, firewalls, and other common tools, you can take some steps to reduce your digital footprint by doing things like hiding your IP address or opting out of cookies and email subscriptions.

The biggest part of a person’s digital footprint is obvious, but often overlooked. Although most people feel uneasy with the current level of privacy that’s available online, the reality is that the information you share on social media sites, blogs, etc., is usually more revealing than what someone would get from studying the rest of your online activities.

An issue like Internet privacy is so big that we could fill entire books and not be able to give you a satisfying answer about the best ways to protect yourself online, or how to balance privacy versus security. For now, just know that your digital footprint is always growing, and it’s up to all of us to decide what we want to allow governments, marketers, and others to know and use.

For more great ideas on technology and online marketing, come back to the Effusion Arizona web design blog again soon.