5 Things You Should Know About Online Privacy
If there is one thing that we have learned from the recent Facebook TOS flap, it's that online privacy is a big deal.
While many of us like having places to share our thoughts and images with friends and loved ones, we also want to know that we can trust the sites that provide the platforms for our social interactions. We expect that web services will be responsible with the information we put on their servers, and not utilize it in an unscrupulous fashion.
And while these websites have a responsibility to respect our privacy, we also have to educate ourselves regarding online privacy in general. Here's a list of things that you should know about online privacy.
1. Things that you post online are hard to get rid of. One thing that you should take from the situation with Facebook's Terms of Service, is that once you put your stuff online, it's not so easy to get it off. When Facebook put in it's TOS that they could utilize user information and pictures even after a profile is closed, it was because they do not plan to erase a user's pictures or words from all of the remaining profiles that contain that information.
And guess what? Most websites work the same way.
2. Internet browsers can store a lot of private information. They can also send it all over the internet. Don't believe it? Just log-on to http://network-tools.com/analyze, and you can get a sample of the information that your browser can spread. Most likely it will provide your IP address (your computer's unique address) along with your location, and your surfing history.
What can you do about this? Well, first of all, make sure that your keep your browser updated with the latest security patches. This can be set to happen automatically. You can also use a browser like Firefox that will allow you to erase all your private data with one click. Also, check out your browser's help section to determine how its privacy settings work.
3. Make sure a site is secure before you give your credit card info. How do you know? For one, if the site is secure, your browser should have an unbroken padlock icon in the lower right hand corner. Also make sure that that the site's security certificate is up to date by right-clicking on the padlock. If it isn't don't shop there. The "http" in the address bar should have an "s" at the end of it as well. If this is the case then your information should be encrypted before its transmitted.
4. You need to know how to secure your computer. If you are surfing the internet, you need to know about firewalls, which should control what goes both in and out of your computer, as well as anti-virus and anti-spyware programs, that will remove malicious programs from your computer. There are many free and paid options, some free options can be found here. When it comes to anti-virus and anti-spyware programs, there is no program that will remove all threats to your system. Download several and run them one after the other for maximum protection.
5. Be wary of free Wi-Fi connections. Nowadays, many bookstores, libraries and coffeeshops have free Wi-Fi connections that they offer for your use. However, unless you set up the connection yourself, you cannot be sure about the security precautions that are being used. Because of this, your should treat these connections just like you would a public computer. Be careful about accessing your financial statements and making purchases with your credit card while operating on an open network. For more information on wireless internet safety, go here.
If you want to get even more information about internet privacy, check out the website of Privacy Rights Clearinghouse @ www.privacyrights.org
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Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada