It would be a bit of an understatement to say that the internet has become an integral part of one’s life. After all, let’s face it; we spend hours browsing through millions of sites every day, collecting (often less than useful) bits of information, facts, figures and trivia. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

In other words, the amount of time, energy and information an individual puts into their social media presence is simply mindboggling. Sample this-according to We Are Social’s Digital in 2018 report, more than 3 billion people globally now use social media each month (end-2017). This translates into 3.196 billion users cumulatively, a 13 per cent jump over the previous year. No small numbers, these.

The point of highlighting this information is simple-globally, people spend a good part of their waking hours documenting their everyday lives. Life in the digital age deems, no, demands, that everyone own a smartphone, a computer and a host of online accounts to house across multiple gadgets.

But, there is a downside. According to various industry reports, a single customer holds over 100 separate online accounts-ranging from online banking to social media. This, naturally, gives rise to the question-is global data witnessing a glut? Keep in mind that by owning multiple account addresses and identities, resources are permanently tied up and unavailable to those who require the same urgently. This, in fact, as per We Are Social, includes the one million new users across social media platforms.

In other words, how ought individuals manage their digital footprint? Should they, at all? The answer, in a nutshell (and in my opinion) is yes. Here’s why-a viable way of considering one’s digital footprint is that it is akin to insurance. Both ought to provide long-term benefits, while being relevant to the family. Both also ought to be accessible to the right people, without them having to face miles and miles of red tapism. And, last but certainly not the least, both ought to ensure a mine of data and information isn’t vulnerable to theft.

So, now, how does one define a digital footprint? Well, for all intents and purposes, there is no definite way. Usually, a digital asset is considered to be something in digital form (picture, video, music, blog post, e-book etc.) that has value-either in or of itself (“intrinsic”) or acquired. Digital assets can be tangible things like smartphones, computers (laptops, tablets), flash drives, e-book readers cameras, et al. or, they can be intangible like your Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn accounts, webpages, domain names, and more. in other words, digital assets, like everything else an individual owns, holds monetary and sentimental value.

Unfortunately, though, this isn’t enough. Today, preserving one’s digital footprint is a complicated process, with lots of twists and turns. Consider this-in the case of online bank accounts, online store accounts, etc, the information pertaining to the customer partially belong to thin the e service providers who store the information on their servers. Interestingly, this implies that the person’s own family may have to run from pillar to post to access the information! One way of preventing this (again, in my opinion), is appointing a “digital executor” to touch base with the service provider in question to arrange access, legally, of course.

It is only slightly easier when it comes to social media. Marginally better, in fact. Social media bigwigs have provisioned for such situations, post Facebook introducing a method of memorializing accounts back in 2009. Thereafter, biggies like Twitter, YouTube, Wikipedia, Dropbox, et all have all followed suit in the last two to three years. These players have created policies and tools to cater to such eventualities.

Now, here’s where the plot thickens. Harking back to likening one’s digital footprint to insurance, the next tricky part is ensuring identity and data theft doesn’t take place. Easier said than done, obviously, given how many miles (virtually) one travels virtually. So, while creating a digital footprint is a given, one can avoid living one’s life solely on social media platforms. In other words, one’s online community probably doesn’t need to know about what financial or customer-centric target your start-up achieved in six months!

This is, of course, merely a laundry list of sorts. The argument continues (and will) for a very long time. One thing’s clear, though. Ultimately, it is one’s choice, despite threats of data and identity theft. After all, in today’s connected world, hasn’t one’s online persona become as important as that in the flesh?

Atul Madan

Atul Madan

Atul Madan, Chief Operating Officer - Mobile Lifestyle Solutions, Atul has over 20 years of experience and has held a variety of senior executive roles in the software and telecom domains. At Mahindra Comviva,...