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Digital exhaust

(also data exhaust, digital breadcrumbs)

Digital exhaust definition

Digital exhaust is the sum total of the data generated as a byproduct of a specific person’s digital interactions and activities. Just like the smoke exiting the tailpipe of a car, your digital exhaust can reveal your activities, interests, and location.

A person’s digital exhaust is part of their digital footprint, which is the data resulting from online actions that can be traced back to them. Digital exhaust covers passive data traces, which are often generated without the person ever being consciously aware of it.

See also: digital fingerprint, digital footprint, digital identity, transactional data, data logging, data mining, data profiling

Examples of digital exhaust data

  • Web browsing data such as websites visited, clickstreams, search queries, and browsing history.
  • E-commerce data such as shopping patterns and product views.
  • Mobile app data such as usage, location, and user interactions.
  • Information generated by smart devices connected to the internet, such as thermostats or wearables.

Uses for digital exhaust

  • Data analytics: Organizations may analyze digital exhaust to extract valuable insights into personal habits and overall trends. The results can be used to inform business strategies, improve user experiences, and personalize services.
  • Data monetization: Some companies anonymize and aggregate the data collected to sell to interested parties (such as advertisers), who then analyze it to determine market or social trends. However, such sales often raise concern about privacy and consent.