KYC AML Guide: the Clock shows the average reeding time of the blog10 min Read


KYC AML Guide: the Clock shows the average reeding time of the blogJanuary 31, 2024

What is a Digital Footprint in KYC?

More than half of the total Earth’s population is on the internet as of 2023. Currently, statistics show that 5 billion people are actively using Social Media on Earth in some form. Only 30% have used multi-factor authentication to protect their digital identities and this number drops as the protective measures become technically difficult to use. Digital Footprint is a pressing concern for users’ privacy and data protection as it can be used for Identity Fraud. Let’s see how Digital Footprint relates to KYC (Know Your Customer) and the essential elements that warrant thorough discussion in this regard.

Belal Mahmoud

KYC Product Consultant

What is Digital Footprint?

A Digital Footprint or an electronic footprint is the data and information trail that is left behind due to a user’s online activity over the internet. Digital footprints are proof of your digital presence including all digital engagements, interactions, visits, etc. In short, it is the mark of your virtual presence.

Types of Digital Footprint

Active Digital Footprint Passive Digital Footprint
  • You leave an Active Digital Footprint when you deliberately and knowingly share your information online.
  • Social media posting, participating in voting polls, and even accepting cookies of websites and allowing access to tracker websites to track the information are examples of Active Digital Footprints.
  • It is mostly the online activity that you perform at your own will.
  • It is when you are unaware of your information being shared online.
  • For example, when websites collect your personal information like location access (IP Address), number of visits, etc. without informing you.
  • It also includes likes and shares on social media that are specifically tracked where you were targeted by specific content for advertisement without being notified.

Importance of Digital Footprints in Digital Identities

Digital Footprints are highly important in digital identities. Here is a brief overview of how DFs impact digital identities:

Positive Impact

  • Digital Footprints are highly effective in the KYC Identity Verification process. The digital trails of user’s data and information are highly useful in creating authentic user profiles.
  • Enhanced User Experience is another benefit of Digital Footprints as they enable targeted advertisements and personalized ad campaigns minimizing advertising bombardment.
  • Positive Digital Footprints can help devise effective online marketing campaigns and improve personal branding.
  • Digital Footprints can also help users maintain trust and authenticity in their digital identities where their positive DFs can support their legally compliant activities.

Negative Impact

  • Digital Footprints are always at risk of being misused for Identity theft, Fraud, and other illicit activities.
  • Excessive Digital Footprints can be tracked and breach the data privacy rights of users.
  • Negative Digital Footprints can damage user’s reputations and can cause loss of opportunities.
  • Digital Footprints can be used to make deepfakes through AI and misused for many crimes like ATO Fraud, etc.

Check out how you can Prevent Identity Theft with KYC.

What Activities Makeup a Digital Footprint?

The infographic shows 6 Activities Comprising Digital Footprints: 1) Social Media Engagement 2) Online Purchases 3) Website Visits 4) Search Engine Queries 5) Email Communication 6) Location Data

Social Media Engagement
  • Likes, Comments, and Posts on platforms like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc.
  • Companies use this information for setting trends and formulating business strategies according to user preferences.
Online Purchases
  • Transaction records and history of online shopping from websites like Amazon, Shopify, or any other e-commerce platform.
  • Brands use this data for targeted advertisements.
Website Visits
  • All website visits including the frequency and duration of staying on a website.
  • Google usually ranks a website based on these statistics from users.
Search Engine Queries
  • History of search queries, questions, and other searches on search engines like Google, Bing, etc.
  • This information is valuable for businesses in conducting market research, setting online trends, etc.
Email Communication
  • It contains the metadata of emails sent and received, contacts, and data shared through emails.
  • It is useful in tracking corporate activities and is highly sensitive.
Location Data
  • GPS data and Location-Based services like Uber share information about both drivers and customers to each other.
  • This data is useful in tracking users’ latest visited locations.

The Role of Digital Footprints in KYC (Know Your Customer)

As mentioned earlier Digital Footprints play a key role in the KYC Identification process. Here are the main aspects in which these data trails can be used in enhancing KYC processes:

1) KYC Document Verification

The data and information in the form of digital footprints can be used by KYC Vendors to verify the KYC Documents and the user information present on them. For example, if a person has paid a utility bill online through the website, then this digital footprint can be used to verify and match the correct address, and payment details.

2) Enhanced Biometric Data

In Biometric KYC, the digital footprints can support facial, fingerprint, and voice recognition in biometrics. All social media activity and conversations can be used to enhance the datasets present in a biometric identification system.

3) Enhanced Social Media Verification

The Identity verification of social media users has been facing issues ever since. Genuine user’s user-identifiable information can be used to verify the customers and prevent hacking.

4) Single Sign-On (SSO)

Single Sign-On (SSO) also uses digital footprints including IP address, behavioral patterns, and device information to allow single credentials to be used for multiple sign-ups online. For example, Google Sign-In is an example of SSO using digital footprints of customers where their Gmail ID is used for authenticating multiple services like Facebook, LinkedIn, and even different freelance websites.

Risks of Using Digital Footprints in Digital Identities

The biggest risk that Digital Footprints pose to Digital Identities is the loss of control and the loss of the right to privacy of data. There’s much hype on Self-Sovereign Identity (SSI) that is focused on empowering users to have control over their own digital identities. But if the digital footprints are there, and easily accessible then users by definition have no control over their identities.

Secondly, the risk of identity theft, impersonation, and fraud is always there as long as digital footprints exist and people are not aware of the dangers of misuse of their data. Recent statistics revealed that only 9% of global internet users have asked a company to review their personal information retained in their customer records. The number is alarming because if users do not understand their right to privacy, then the debate of SSI or consent-based information sharing ends and the control is with someone else. However, this concept applies to third-party services and not government databases as governments lawfully collect and record personal information for identification and security purposes.

Final Thoughts

Digital Identities make the foundation of your digital persona and make the world see you as who you want to be. But protecting your identity is the first and most important thing to safeguard your sensitive information. For this purpose, use the trusted platforms, and follow the best practices while using the internet. Moreover, whenever you share some information online during sign-up or registration, use only relevant information and always ask and review the data privacy policy and your rights. Last but not least keep a close watch on your digital footprints to protect your information.


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Belal Mahmoud
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Belal possess over 8 years experience in the KYC Identity Verification industry. He has consulted KYC solutions for over 20 new economy companies at DIFC and ADGM while ensuring a seamless technical integration and helped in jurisdictional compliance audits.