Updated: May 18
Much like a car that produces residue in the form of engine exhaust, the digital exhaust is the leftover from being online. Digital exhaust is all the data a consumer leaves behind as they interact with sites.
Think about your last visit to Amazon. You probably used your name, address, log-in information, credit card number, and phone number to make a purchase.
Amazon also now has data on what product you bought, what else you looked at, and how long it took you to make that purchase.
With that in mind, you can probably guess where this is going. Digital exhaust is full of sensitive personal information that identifies you and tracks your every move.
Your digital exhaust contains your personally identifiable information or PII, which contains data that can be used to identify you.
Digital exhaust is very valuable to others including companies and data brokers. If you’re not sure how valuable it is, consider this:
Selling data is a $200 billion a year industry.
Just one email address is worth $89 overtime on average, and for travel marketing, that number is closer to $251.
Damages from cybercrime are predicted to reach $6 trillion a year globally.
But do those really affect you in your everyday life? The effects can range from mere inconveniences to severe threats such as:
Unauthorized credit card charges
Your driver’s license is used to write bad checks
Your phone number is used in a survey, and you receive unsolicited calls
You’re shown a different price because of the data a company has on you
While researching “stop smoking” solutions for your father, you notice your health insurance premiums go up
You enjoy car racing and search for news only to be seen as “high risk” by car insurers
Digital exhaust isn’t a complicated tech concept to try and understand. It’s real information used by companies, crooks, and data brokers to sell to you, disguise themselves as you, and find ways to fit you into profiles.
Unfortunately, you can’t stop digital exhaust any more than you can control the exhaust from leaving reside from your car. But you can be proactive and manage what information you share and whom you choose to share it with.
With legislation like CCPA and GDPR, more businesses must obtain consent before they start collecting data. So, when you see those cookie consent forms pop up, be sure to pay attention. It’ll give you the power to decide what data you want to share and with whom.
And when you start to do these things, you can create a better online experience and stop leaving digital exhaust everywhere.