10 steps everyone should take to protect their online privacy

March 8, 2008 – 2:54 PM

Online privacy is at risk now more than ever. It is important that people take the protection of their personal information into their own hands. Below are ten steps everyone should take to protect their personal, sensitive, and valuable information.

Step 1 Think before you type. The Internet is the least privacy-friendly communications medium ever developed. It is critical to be ?street wise.? Be aware of what information you are providing and to whom. Take an active roll in protecting your personal information.
Step 2 Only do business with reputable companies and web sites. Make sure you know and trust the businesses with which you?re doing business or providing information.
Step 3 Never volunteer information. Just because a web site asks for information about you doesn?t mean you need to give it to them. If you cannot proceed without giving out personal data, consider whether you really want to do business with that site.
Step 4 If you are required to provide personal information, get creative! If you must answer intrusive personal questions to proceed, and your answers are not legally required to be valid, consider using false names, addresses, ages, and occupations.
Step 5 Use ?disposable? email accounts for all web forms. If you must provide an email address to a web site, and you do not want to continue to receive email from them in the future or risk having your email address sold to spammers, use a disposable email account, like Hotmail or Yahoo!. Create a new email account at least once a month.
Step 6 Do not follow web links in emails sent by a questionable sources. This is especially true when the web site requests sensitive or financial information from you. It is easy for criminals to forge a URL to make it look like a trusted web site. Rather than clicking on a URL, type it in yourself, or, better, make sure the accurate sites for your trusted vendors are bookmarked.
Step 7 Don?t enter online contests. Most are simply tricks by advertisers to gather more detailed information about you.
Step 8 Clear out tracking data on your PC. As you roam the Internet, tracking ?cookies? and other sensitive information accumulates on your PC. Use a tool like Total System Sweeper from Anonymizer to eliminate this information from your computer.
Step 9 Regularly scan your computer for ?spyware.? These programs, typically downloaded to your computer along with useful utilities or games, monitor your internet activities, then report back to the advertisers in order to bombard you with additional pop-ups and other ads. A program like SpyWare Killer will help eliminate these programs from your system.
Step 10 Protect your personal information from being harvested by the sites you visit. Your computer is configured to give away a huge amount of information about who you are, where you?re located, what sites you?ve visited, what software you?re using, and much more. It is critical to use a comprehensive privacy system like Privacy Manager to ensure your personal privacy is protected.


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