Being a Gen-Zer, I learned about the concept of a digital footprint when I was ten years old in my 6th grade digital literacy class. The thought of all my online activity being traceable was and is still extremely daunting. I know people who have kept their social media presence to a bare minimum because of this. The article “Digital Breadcrumbs: the data we leave behind” reminded me a lot about my digital footprint, and exactly how it’s expanded over the course of my life to now, with melatonin gone missing. An FBI agent could likely easily be able to tell you my every move since I was 9 years old, ever since I was given my mom’s old iPhone 4s.
What are Digital Breadcrumbs?
The term “digital breadcrumbs” refers to the trail of data a person leaves that makes them trackable and traceable. The article discusses various apps that require your location to be turned on, and activities we do daily and willingly, such as paying with contactless cards and going out in public with CCTV monitoring. As we crawl deeper and deeper into the digital age, people are becoming more aware of this trail of breadcrumbs, and consequently wonder what this means for us.
According to researchers, digital breadcrumbs constantly connect us to our real and online environments. This is no surprise, as devices over time have increasingly found more ways to initiate wireless connectivity to things around us, including each other. For example, Dr. Norman’s article about realizing it was impossible not to leave a digital trail of breadcrumbs while simply shopping at an Amazon brick and mortar store. With our phones, laced with personal data, being connected to cell towers and wifi systems everywhere, it seems that almost everyone is always traceable.
This tweet, posted during the peak of COVID-19 in March, 2020, demonstrates this exact phenomenon.
What Does This Mean For Me?
Of course, when thinking about digital breadcrumbs and that my every move seems to be on display for others to see through digital data, my first reaction is to be concerned for the privacy of myself and those around me. I am not alone with this worry, as others have voiced their concern about this and have since then seen laws and legislation processes put up to protect people from breaches of digital private information.
However, to think that we can easily put an end to our digital trail of breadcrumbs would be naive, as the world only becomes more interconnected through digital media as time goes on. Instead of plaguing myself with worries about where my digital breadcrumbs (which are probably enough to make up a bakery’s supply of loaves at this point) will end up, I want to focus on making sure I am intentionally leaving some breadcrumb that I am proud of. melatonin gone missing, which has my name, school, a photo of me, and my IP address all over it, is probably another loaf of bread in and of itself. Nonetheless, I am proud to leave this blog in my lifelong data trail because it is something I created from the ground up, and is home to so much content that represents who I am.
So, FBI agent in the ether… if you’re tracking this blog right now, what do you think?
Digital Breadcrumbs: The data trail we leave behind us. Pod Academy. (n.d.). Retrieved March 29, 2023, from http://podacademy.org/podcasts/digital-breadcrumbs-our-data-trail/
Norman, S. (n.d.). Trying not to drop breadcrumbs in Amazon’s store. Publishing | Graduate and Undergraduate Studies – Simon Fraser University. Retrieved March 29, 2023, from https://www.sfu.ca/publishing/news/editorials/trying-not-to-drop-breadcrumbs-in-amazon-s-store.html
Bakery shelf with many types of bread. tasty German bread loaves on the shelves. Food Ingredient Facts. (2020, April 15). Retrieved March 29, 2023, from https://www.foodingredientfacts.org/why-food-ingredients-are-especially-important-during-covid19/bakery-shelf-with-many-types-of-bread-tasty-german-bread-loaves-on-the-shelves/