Seeking Internet privacy

Internet privacy: does it exist? Are you concerned about what the world now knows about you? There’s software that may help you protect your privacy.

A quote in the New York Times Magazine sums it up: “You don’t have any privacy on the Net.” Period. Do you ever wonder why the ads that blanket some of your favourite websites seem directed precisely at you? It’s not an accident. Most websites send your computer digital “cookies” along with the information they give you for free, allowing e-vendors to track your subsequent moves around the Internet. The result is that the next website you visit calls up an ad that reflects your tastes and proclivities, or at least what the vendors think are your tastes and proclivities.

Employers take note

In short, anyone who believes they are anonymous on the Net is living in a fool’s paradise, as some federal civil servants discovered last week when it was revealed that their employer had duly noted thousands of visits to “non-business” websites. That may not bother some people, but most taxpayers don’t like it, even if they wouldn’t care that a civil servant spent a few minutes tang a personal phone call or leafing through a magazine. Email is another whole area, the basic warning being (as Monica Lewinsky sadly discovered) that no email is truly private.

Enhancing net privacy

If you want to enhance the degree of privacy afforded your e-mails and web-surfing time, an aptly-named Canadian company called “Zero Knowledge” may have what you’re looking for. The Montreal company’s software encrypts both your surfing habits and your email transmissions, making it virtually impossible for anyone to know where you’ve been or what you’ve been writing.

Zero Knowledge introduced Freedom 1.0, an electronic privacy system that lets you surf the Net, send email, chat and post to newsgroups in total privacy, without having to trust third parties with your personal information. Once you’re using the software, your electronic “traffic” is linked to untraceable digital identities called “nyms”, rather than your own identity, and encrypted and routed through a separate network. In short, you’re surfing the net in disguise.

Reviewers have given Freedom (now in version 1.1) very positive reviews, with the only disadvantage noted that the software can slightly slow older computers and modems. If security and confidentiality is a concern for you, visit the site below and try out their free download. The complete software sells for $49.95 (U.S.)