Facts from the
Pew Internet & American Life Project

Digital Footprints

by Susannah Fox, Mary Madden, Aaron Smith, Jessica Vitak
Dec 16, 2007

The nature of personal information is changing in the age of Web 2.0.450px-Maldives_00133.JPG

Internet users are becoming more aware of their digital footprint; 47%have searched for information about themselves online, up from just 22% five years ago.

Just 3% of self-searchers report that they make a regular habit of it and 22% say they search using their name “every once in a while.” Three-quarters of self-searchers (74%) have checked up on their digital footprints only once or twice.

Roughly one third of internet users say the following pieces of information are available online: their email address, home address, home phone number, or their employer. One quarter to one third of internet users say they do not know if those
data points are available online.

One quarter of internet users say a photo, names of groups they belong to, or things they have written that have their name on it appear online.

Few internet users say their political affiliation, cell phone number, or videos of them appear online.

Fully 60% of internet users say they are not worried about how much information is available about them online.

Similarly, the majority of online adults (61%) do not feel compelled to limit the amount of information that can be found about them online. Just 38% say they have taken steps to limit the amount of online information that is available about them.

Fully 87% of self-searchers who locate information connected to their name say that most of what they find is accurate

More than half of all adult internet users have used a search engine to follow others’ footprints.


Fully 36% of adult internet users and 47% of teens report uploading photos where others can see them online.

55% of online teens have created an online profile and that most restrict access to them in some way.

77% of online teens say that their profile is currently visible.

Fully 36% say they think it would be “very difficult” for someone to identify them from their online profile.

Forty percent of teens with profiles online think that it would be hard for someone to find out who they are from their profile, but that they could eventually be found online.

And 23% of teen profile creators said it would be “pretty easy” for someone to find out who they are from the information posted to their profile.

11% of adult internet users say they have searched online for information about someone they are thinking about hiring or working with.