Let’s talk about some Privacy 101 stuff for a moment, because gaps in your personal security can be narrowed with minimal effort. Since more and more major corporations are now working in cahoots with the very federal regulators that oversee their operations, it’s hard to know who to trust anymore.
What Ever Happened to Americans’
The Post and its big government allies are upset because some Internet consumers are enjoying “highly secure means of communication.”
At least Washington Post leftists are willing to reveal their true beliefs — even if it is a defense of what is quite literally fascism. More insidious it the silent cabal of businesses and government officials working in concert to undermine privacy, as they engage in a permanent, massive, national data fishing expedition.
Most of us surf the web. Most of us are savvy enough to have spam filters and anti-virus software to guard against unscrupulous hackers. But did you know it’s not always the criminals you need to look out for?
Lurking behind the curtain of the internet is a vast network of invasive cyber-spies, businesses, and government officials with an unhealthy interest in you.
The latest rage among advertising companies these days is behavioral advertising. This involves marketing a product to you on the internet based on your personal preferences and tastes. Of course, the primary way these companies know your preferences is by keeping tabs to a certain extent on your internet activity.
When Using the Internet, Your Web Browser
Can Be Your Worst Enemy
Whether you use Internet Explorer, Netscape, Mozilla Firefox, Google Chrome, Safari, or any other web browser, you could be helping snoops spy on you using a piece of code called a “cookie.”
Under your browser’s default security setting, cookies automatically download themselves onto your computer when you visit websites. Now let me be clear, most of the time cookies are relatively harmless – keeping things straight while you are in the checkout process of placing an online order, for example. And fortunately, a cookie can usually only be read by the website that wrote it.
Greater danger comes when you use a company that advertises a “better browsing experience” and offers to more quickly provide you with what you are looking by installing their application. These companies use “behavioral advertising techniques” (formally know as spyware) that use scripts and cookies to track your web browser history (and in some cases searches and/or keystrokes – in the case of “search toolbars”).
An advertisement is then displayed based on your history of surfing behavior. So, if you’re a Boston Red Sox fan and visit fan web sites regularly, you may soon start to see ads for the Red Sox and New England businesses.
READER ALERT: Do not download these types of programs as they are blatant collectors of your personal information, and some have even been involved in lawsuits for unethical practices (such as flouting their own published privacy policies).
However, this is different than the “search toolbars” that are now installed on most web browsers which are safe to use – the only thing your browser search bar transmits is the term you are searching.
A smart practice to adopt going forward is to periodically delete the cookies on your computer. Here’s how to do it using Internet Explorer:
Other browsers, such as Firefox, have similar processes. This will delete all your cookies.
But beware: You can accidentally erase any saved passwords you have used on websites, so make sure you have upgraded to the most modern version of your web browser where you can specify what you’d like to delete. Older browsers didn’t give you a choice not to delete passwords with history and/or cookies. (Of course, it is good practice to have your passwords memorized or recorded in a secure place, rather than relying on your computer to remember them.)
Next, you may want to block cookies from accessing your computer altogether – or at least issue you a warning whenever a cookie is to be placed so you can make a decision.
Again, the process should be similar for other browsers.
There are other simple things you can do to keep the cyber spies at bay: