Can you get online privacy?

When you go online, how much privacy can you expect? There are a number of ways  unscrupulous web site owners and Internet marketing people get personal information about you while you meander around web sites.There are also ways you can put digital screens across their prying eyes. Development in new communications technologies is really taking off.

If you want to quickly find out what a snooping webmaster can find out about your computer, check out the Privacy Analyzer , or the Symantec Security Check .

Boost personal security
Boosting your personal privacy protection does not have to cost a lot of money. Nor does it necessarily involve adding new software-unless you run an online business or have highly sensitive material on your home computer.

  • First, the most important step is to check the privacy and security settings in your browser.

In Internet Explorer, these features are listed under “Tools, Internet Options, Security”.
Inetscape, they are listed under “Edit, Preferences, Privacy & Security”.

You can set the security features higher or lower, depending on your level of comfort or concern.

  • Second, no matter how secure your computer is, if you have highly sensitive or personal information, it could still be compromised by accident.

Protect sensitive documents
If you use Microsoft Word, you can take advantage of a built-in encryption feature to password-protect your sensitive documents.

  • Next time you save them, select “Save as” then click on “Options” and you will find a box that allows you to enter a password.

You’ll be asked to enter it a second time before the file is saved. Once the file is password-protected you will be the only one who can open and read the contents.

How snoops find you
If you are on an “always on” Internet connection, your Internet service provider (ISP) may assign you a permanent “IP” address. This address, a combination of numbers (for example: 123.456.789.10) allows other computers on the network to know that your computer exists and is active.  A snoop who has that information can learn a number of things about you.

  • If you want to block web sites from gaining access to your IP and email addresses, download the Internet Anonymizer .

There is a free version, which has some limitations, but it is very easy to use. After you install the Anonymizer, a shield appears on the menu of your browser. Click it before you surf to any new web site, and it turns on a shield that prevents anyone from snooping into your business.

Keep in mind that there are some web sites that require an IP number for legitimate security access purposes, and the Anonymizer may turn off some features that allow you to play games or access interactive features at some web sites.

Cookies leave code
Cookies are small snippets of computer code that can be left on your home computer by the web sites you visit. They are almost always harmless, but because a small number of unscrupulous web sites have abused them, many Internet users mistrust and dislike them.

You can download Cookie Sweeper , a program that helps automate the process of blocking selected cookies. Why would you want to be selective? Well, most cookies are in fact harmless, and some are needed to allow you to access secured web sites. But you will quickly get tired of deciding which cookies to block or accept if you have to do it manually.

Learning more
If you are still concerned about privacy and want to learn more, the web site is worth a visit. It discusses a wid range of privacy-protection software, everything from cookie sweepers to banner-ad blockers and anti-virus programs.