Digital technology is changing nature conservation in increasingly profound ways. We describe this impact and its significance through the concept of ‘digital conservation’, which we found to comprise five pivotal dimensions: data on nature, data on people, data integration and analysis, communication and experience, and participatory governance. Examining digital innovation in nature conservation and addressing how its development, implementation and diffusion may be steered, we warn against hypes, techno-fix thinking, good news narratives and unverified assumptions. We identify a need for rigorous evaluation, more comprehensive consideration of social exclusion, frameworks for regulation and increased multi-sector as well as multi-discipline awareness and cooperation. Along the way, digital technology may best be reconceptualised by conservationists from something that is either good or bad, to a dual-faced force in need of guidance.