Internet Privacy – Consumer Safety in an eCommerce World

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The Internet has been around for a while and it’s getting a lot more popular every single day. Times are changing, as are the ways we use the Internet in our daily lives. From it’s origins as purely a hobbyist information-only medium the Internet was relatively safe and nonthreatening when it came to its users’ privacy. However, in it’s maturity the Internet has become more than just a one-way dialog for surfers to find information. With the advent of community oriented sites millions of people log in everyday to use it for social purposes, business reasons, and lots of other tasks.

Teens use it as a primary form of communication, and lots of older people do too. However, not everything you say or do online is private. In fact, you can assume that pretty much everything said online can be read by someone else. That’s a reason to be careful, and think before you put information out there. In addition to taking care not to expose information you’re afraid of other people getting, there are a few steps you can take to protect your privacy on the Internet.

Types of Privacy Online

When we talk about privacy on the Internet, most people think about protecting data like credit card numbers, personal information and other vital facts. While this is important for businesses to do, specifically web hosting companies and credit card processing merchants – that’s not the only information that unscrupulous people online can use to their advantage.

Your email, address, age, and even your web browsing habits can become public knowledge. They can be used to send you junk mail, find out more about you, and even steal your identity, if the person who has them is clever enough. The basic types of information online fall into a few categories. Broadly, you need to protect financial data, personal facts (like your birth date and physical address) and information about your life.

Ways Your Privacy Can Be Violated

There are several different ways that you can lose your privacy on the Internet. These include bots, which search through forum postings, social pages, and blogs for information like your email address and personal information, as well as invasive programs, and regular people who are out to use your data for no good. Beware of downloading helpful programs without reading everything that goes with them. Many include spyware, which tracks where you go and what you do online, then uses that information to send you ads and unwanted spam email. Avoid giving out data to strangers and other you don’t trust, too. Don’t enter information into a form that’s not secure, or a website you just don’t trust.

Check your computer routinely for spyware. There are a number of trustworthy programs that can provide this service, like SpyBot and AdAware. Don’t trust popups that tell you there’s spyware on your computer, or click on banners that offer protection from it, though. Much of the time, they contain this kind of malicious software themselves. Only click links you trust, and never install something if you don’t know exactly what it is. Being careful is the best way to protect your Internet privacy.

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Source by John McDowell

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