Privacy and the Internet

If you have a computer and access the Internet, odds are you have been subject to spam mail, ad bots, emails from people you don’t know from foreign countries, etc.  Do you ever stop to wonder why you are receiving ads from a company you are not familiar with targeting you with information you were searching for on another company’s website?  Or have you ever wondered why you are receiving spam emails from Nigeria requesting money from you?  Many of us have and we wonder why.  It simply boils downs to privacy and the Internet.

Unfortunately, there aren’t any laws governing who can track what we do on the Internet.  Simply put, there is virtually none to very little privacy laws protecting the Internet user.  Sounds shocking I know and you would think that more would be done to protect people from being infiltrated by all these trackers.

Here are some ways on how you are targeted:

  • IP address* – some Internet providers will either assign you a permanent IP address which makes you and easier target to track as opposed to one that changes the address.  However, IP addresses do not give out any personal information about you, just where your computer is located.
  • Email lists* – if you use email lists to do any kind of discussion, all of that information can be gathered and sold to third parties, who in turn will target you with information that can be related to the original list you are on.
  • Search engines* – such as Google or Bing, they will store your IP address, the subject you are searching for, time of day, and other information for well over a year. Be careful if you want to see if any of your private information is online, doing this kind of search will save your personal information that you provide the search engine.
  • Cookies* – information that is saved on your hard drive after visiting such shopping sites as Amazon.com or BestBuy.com, so the next time you visit that website, your information and similar items you searched for are displayed for you.  However, even though these are secured sites, you may be subject to ‘third-party’ cookies that will give your personal information to advertising clearinghouses who in turn, give your information to online marketers.  And all of this is legal!

*Copyright © Privacy Rights Clearinghouse/UCAN. This copyrighted document may be copied and distributed for nonprofit, educational purposes only, viahttp://www.privacyrights.org/fs/fs18-cyb.htm#PART_TWO.  This is a fantastic website as it will educate you on how your information is being tracked.

Now, the next obvious question is:  What can I do to minimize my personal information from being exposed?  Here are a few solutions:

  1. Avoid filling out unnecessary forms that ask for too much personal information.
  2. Delete your search history frequently.
  3. Download books, music, videos, etc. from reliable sources and not those that attached adware to your downloads, as they will report your Internet surfing habits to third parties who will target you.
  4. Avoid scams.

The above solution examples were used with permission and attribution via the website http://websearch.about.com/od/anonymoussurfingsafety/tp/Ten-Ways-To-Protect-Your-Web-Privacy.htm.

The bottom line is to simply be careful of what information about yourself you put out there and make sure you are using only very reputable sites if you have to give out information such as addresses and credit card information.  Do yourself a favor and educate yourself on this as there are many resources out there that can save you a lot of trouble and annoyance down the road.

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