Data Shadow

What Does Data Shadow Mean?

A data shadow is a slang term that refers to the sum of all small traces of information that an individual leaves behind through everyday activities. It is a minute piece of data created when an individual sends an email, updates a social media profile, swipes a credit card, uses an ATM and so on. The data shadow concept has become a serious concern, as it is difficult to control who actually looks at an individual’s data shadow, what conclusions they are drawing and what actions are taken based on those conclusions.


Techopedia Explains Data Shadow

Movie thrillers often include a scene where a computer genius puts together a detailed account of a person’s life by collecting and collating data from different sources. Years ago, this idea was more science fiction than fact. Increasingly, our lives are being recorded directly over the Internet through channels like email, social media, Web browsing and online transactions, and indirectly via point-of-sale terminals, mobile GPS and so on. Thus, the size and detail of our data shadows have grown larger.

Data privacy laws exist, and more are being created to prevent the abuse of an individual’s data shadow. For example, this can occur when an employer fires an employee based on his or her Facebook friends or photos. Unfortunately, however, privacy legislation generally lags behind an organization’s ability to collect, compile and analyze data.


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Margaret Rouse
Technology Expert

Margaret is an award-winning technical writer and teacher known for her ability to explain complex technical subjects to a non-technical business audience. Over the past twenty years, her IT definitions have been published by Que in an encyclopedia of technology terms and cited in articles by the New York Times, Time Magazine, USA Today, ZDNet, PC Magazine, and Discovery Magazine. She joined Techopedia in 2011. Margaret's idea of a fun day is helping IT and business professionals learn to speak each other’s highly specialized languages.