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Tech Tips, Tricks & Trivia

by 'Anil' Radhakrishna
An architect's notes, experiments, discoveries and annotated bookmarks.

Search from over a hundred HOW TO articles, Tips and Tricks

4 practical ways to protect your privacy online

A recent Wall Street Journal article reveals that companies today are increasingly tying people's real-life identities to their online browsing habits.

WSJ also provides these startling privacy insights among others -
  • Americans' license plates are now being tracked not only by the government, but also by repo men who hope to profit from the information.
  • The government follows the movements of thousands of Americans a year by secretly monitoring their cellphone records . 
  • One of the fastest growing online businesses is that of spying on Americans as they browse the Web.
Here are some ways drawn from online resources, to protect your privacy online  -

1. Log Out of Social Networks When Browsing and Clear Cookies

All those little “Like” buttons and other social-networking technologies across the Web can inform the parent company of your browsing habits whenever you encounter them. This is true even if you don’t actually click the button.

Did you notice, many sites these days don't show the log-out option  distinctly. It takes an extra step to locate it.

2. Use Disposable Email Addresses

If you want to sign up for newsletters or for accounts that require an email address, but you don’t want that address to be used to track you, you should consider disposable addresses.

Gmail lets you add a plus sign and a word or phrase to your existing email address. For example, name+site@gmail.com will get forwarded to name@gmail.com, allowing you to use many different “name+” combinations when you sign up for services online. It’s true that it would be easy for a program to identify you by discarding anything after the plus sign, but it’s currently unlikely that most services would expend the effort.

 3. Use a Fake Name

Finally, remember that in many cases, there is no rule that says you need to use your real or full name online. We’re not advocating fraud: People you’re buying something from might need to have your actual information, for example. But think about what you enter into forms online, and if you don’t need to use real personally identifiable information, don’t do it.

It's funny, the lengths we have to go through to protect our privacy. A recent Wired magazine article on passwords recommends giving bogus answers to security questions - not something hackers can get through social-engineering.

4. Activate the "Do Not Track" browser preference

Enabling ‘Do Not Track’ means that a request will be included with your browsing traffic. Any effect depends on whether a website responds to the request, and how the request is interpreted. For example, some websites may respond to this request by showing you ads that aren't based on other websites you've visited. Many websites will still collect and use your browsing data - for example to improve security, to provide content, services, ads and recommendations on their websites, and to generate reporting statistics.

Also see: Don't let Chrome & Firefox remember your passwords on a shared computer

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