Taking care of your privacy and digital footprint

Every time you go online, you leave a footprint of where you’ve been and what you’ve done. Try our advice to protect your privacy and information.

What is your digital footprint?

Whenever you visit a website, share a photo or make a comment online, you leave a digital footprint that other people can see. Your digital footprint includes all the information you share or that’s collected about you online, and there can be a lot of it.

Lots of the information you share can be seen by other people. It can be used to target adverts at you, or it could be seen by a potential employer years later. Sometimes people can use the details you share to work out your identity.

Your footprint can be both good and bad. It could show things you’re embarrassed about later, or help people to see your skills or things you’re proud of.

7 things that could be part of your digital footprint

  1. Photos and posts on social media
  2. Data collected on fitness trackers and smart watches
  3. Games you’ve played online
  4. Things you’ve bought
  5. Information you allow apps to collect or access
  6. Voice searches on Alexa or other devices
  7. Comments or arguments you’ve been in

Tips to protect your privacy online

Whether you want to protect your privacy or leave a positive digital footprint, we’ve got advice for you.

  • Change your privacy settings
    Lots of social media sites will set your account to public by default. Changing your privacy settings lets you control who can see your posts and whether they’ll appear on search engines.
  • Think before you post
    You never know who’ll see photos, videos or comments you put online so think about how others might react before you post anything. Even apps like Snapchat can be screenshotted and shared. Never share your address, phone number or the name of your school online.
  • Delete content you don’t want online
    Posted something you regret? There are lots of ways to delete things about you online. It can help to close or delete old social media accounts you don’t use anymore as well.
  • Search your name
    Typing your name or your username into a search engine can help you find what’s easily available about you online. Remember, if you can find it then so can other people.
  • Check what data your device is collecting
    Devices like phones, fitness trackers or wearables can collect data about you without you realising. Every device is different so search online to find out if your data is being used.
  • Set permissions for apps and websites
    Lots of apps will ask for permission to use your data when you install them, including things like your contacts, photos and messages. Be careful about what you agree to and pick apps and browsers that protect your privacy. When you visit sites and you’re asked whether you accept cookies, make sure you check what the website says about how they’ll use them before you agree.
  • Share positive parts of your life
    Try sharing things you’d be happy with anyone else seeing, things you are proud of. When you post comments to other people, try being supportive and positive.

Deleting things you’ve shared online

Some things you post online can be easily deleted, but not everything. It can depend on who posted and where it’s been shared. If you’re not sure whether you can take something down, there lots of things you can try.

Changing your privacy settings

Lots of apps and sites will set your profile to public automatically, which means that anyone can see what you've posted.

Changing your privacy settings can help to keep you safe, here's how:


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See how other people stay safe online

Keeping your information secure

Having your social media account hacked or finding out someone has stolen your data can be scary and upsetting. But there are easy steps you can take to keep yourself safe.


If you’re worried - find someone you trust to talk to. Try talking to your parents, teachers or another adult you feel comfortable with.

You might also find it helpful to chat to other young people who have the same worries as you. The message boards are a great way to do this. If you have a particular question, you could also Ask Sam for advice.

Get more advice and support: 

  • Childnet has lots of advice and information on taking care of your digital footprint
  • Thinkuknow can help you to think about what you're posting online before you do it
  • Young Scot have got great advice about looking after your digital footprint