What Is A Digital Shadow?

What Is A Digital Shadow?

Since we’ve been writing on different terms parents have been asking about, such as Digital Detoxes, Digital Dating Abuse, Digital Self-Harm, Digital Citizenship, and Digital Tattoos, we also wanted to touch on Digital Shadows.

What Is A Digital Shadow?

MyShadow.org defines a digital shadow as…

“The sum of all data that we leave behind every time we use a digital service, such as the Internet or a mobile phone.”

Digital Shadows are not just concerns for individuals, but also for large corporations and businesses of all sizes.

It’s important to know that sometimes this data is collected without our knowledge or consent. In other cases, we give permission through User Agreements, like the ones we acknowledge on social media sites.

What do these digital traces include?

  • Any browsing we do on the internet
  • Any news website we access
  • Any rants we read (or post!) on Twitter
  • Any photos we post on Facebook
  • Any comments we put under YouTube videos
  • Any blog posts we publish
  • Any comments on others’ blog posts
  • Any received phone calls on your cell phone
  • Any sent SMS messages or instant messages
  • Any online banking or online bill paying that we engage in
  • Any cloud computing services that we utilize for work or personal use
  • Any social media we access

ComputerWeekly.com offers this insight into Digital Shadows:

“ ...there’s a big difference between my natural shadow and my digital shadow. My real shadow may follow me around but people don’t make judgments on me based upon it; they do when it comes to my digital shadow. I can manoeuvre my natural shadow by the way I stand in the sun or the light but my digital shadow is created and controlled by others. My natural shadow may get bigger at times, but it also shrinks. My digital shadow increases all the time. Who are the people making my digital shadow? What information are they putting into it?”

Do You Still Leave A Digital Shadow When You Set Your Privacy Settings?

Unfortunately, yes. And while most of the time, your Digital Shadow is used for relatively “innocent” things, such as advertising, it can also be used for hackers to gain access to your personal information and/or your credit card or banking info.

How Can You Minimize Your Digital Shadow?

The number one thing to minimize your Digital Shadow is to abstain from social media. Through social media, information about where you hang out, who your friends are, what you spend your money on, etc., can all be collected. If staying away from social media altogether sounds impossible, a recent article from ABCNews offers these suggestions:

  • Using a TOR browser or VPN (virtual private network) for searches, which will “completely mask everything about you.”
  • Paying cash for gift cards, which can then be used to make purchases online.
  • Set up a post office box to receive any online purchases.

The article goes on to offer this advice:

“These are the things you do if you really want to hide… But this is what I tell people: ‘Ask yourself, what harm can come from your data?’”


Smart Girl Society, Inc., is an Omaha-based nonprofit working to educate and inspire Smart & Confident girls, women, & families. Through educational workshops, civil outreach programs, and technology & social media research, we work with girls, parents, & educators to authenticity on social media and in real life. We educate how to remain safe on social media and how to avoid becoming a target of sextortion. We also inspire action for students to focus on their personal brand development, leadership, educational opportunities, and healthy social skills. Interested in learning more? Check us out!