Twelve Things You Need to Know About Internet Privacy

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Here are twelve essential points that everybody should know about privacy on the Internet. Keep these basic privacy concepts and practices in mind and you will be better able to guard your privacy and reduce intrusions into your life.

  1. There is no such thing as 100% privacy on the Internet.
    You can take steps to lessen the intrusions into your privacy but there is no way to guarantee that nothing can be learned about you and your affairs. Learn to live with this reality and act accordingly.
  2. Like it or not, you have to trust somebody.
    Anything you do on the Internet has to go through numerous intermediaries, routers, networks, etc. Ultimately, you have to trust the security of your ISP and other services that you use.  VPNs and proxy servers can increase your security but they are not foolproof. 
  3. Privacy comes at the cost of convenience.
    The more measures to increase privacy that you use, the more cumbersome using the Internet becomes. Locked doors are harder to use than open ones. The correct trade-off between privacy measures and convenience depends on how you use the Internet. If you like to live dangerously, you may need a lot of privacy measures. If you are a casual web surfer and send harmless emails, not so much. Choose the level of privacy appropriate to your Internet usage.
  4. There are innumerable ways to spy on wireless or cell connections.
    There is no standard encryption that can’t be broken and deciphered but using a strong version of WPA encryption on your wireless router is better than not. Avoid using public hot-spots for private business.
  5. Assume that all email that you send is public.
    If you must use email to send sensitive material, use some form of strong encryption. Send the encryption key to the recipient by some other means than email.
  6. Deleted email is probably still there somewhere.
    You may delete an embarrassing or private email but it may very well still be on the email servers or on the other party's computer.
  7. Everything you do or say on the Internet is recorded somewhere, usually in numerous places.
    You can take measures to make it hard to trace your Internet actions back to you personally but there is always the chance that a persistent and technically adept person or agency can track you down. However, most of us aren't important enough to warrant that kind of effort.
  8. What you post on social sites might as well be on a public bulletin board.
    Privacy measures at Facebook and other social sites are full of holes. Assume that anybody can see what you post.
  9. Be careful what you reveal on the Internet
    Use disposable email addresses and pseudonyms as much as possible. Don't reveal anything you don't have to when signing up for some service. Assume any information you reveal on one site gets shared or sold.
  10. It is almost impossible to remove all traces of something once it is on the Internet.
    Those pictures of yourself that you posted when drunk can come back to haunt you years later.
  11. Advertisers want to track you.
    Advertisers want to know as much as possible about your activities so they can target their ads for you. They keep developing more and better methods to track your Internet activities. Gizmo’s has many articles about ad blocking and control of tracking cookies. 
  12. Monitor your credit cards and bank accounts daily.
    Personal records stored in company databases are stolen all the time. If you have online credit card accounts, monitor them for unauthorized activity daily. Also monitor any online banking or financial accounts daily.

Keep these ideas in mind and go to the following excellent guides for details of ways to protect your privacy.

Got your own ideas about general privacy practices? Let us know about them in the comments. 

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This tips section is maintained by Vic Laurie. Vic runs several websites with Windows how-to's, guides, and tutorials, including a site for learning about Windows and the Internet and another with Windows 7 tips.

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Comments

Midnight Cowboy--I stand corrected, and happily so, about Comodo's Chinese connection. Thank you for setting me straight.

Hi Chiron,

I am new registered user on this site, it contains a wealth of goof info.

I went through the article - Probably the Best Free Security List in the World. Oh my, it is such a long list! Is it essential to install one program from each category on my PC in order to have a full security?

I would request you to write a brief article with minimum essential (yea, that's important!) tips to boost security on PC for an average user.

They say that Windows 8 is much secure and one needn't worry much while browsing or downloading. I doubt this. Is it true?

Very good article. However, I have two caveats about using Comodo Dragon; the browser can be very difficult to uninstall, and the company is headquartered in the People's Republic of China--one of the world's worst offenders when it comes to repressive internet policies, tracking, and hacking.

Comodo is headquartered in the United States, not China, but like a lot of other developers does have an office in China as well as 5 other countries. MC - Site Manager.

What excellence! The only caveat to that is the partial inconsistency between the concepts that one should monitor credit cards/bank accounts on a daily basis (#12) and the fact that most of us are not important enough to warrant the effort required by those skilled enough to emply stealth to obtain our information (#7). Still, I will forward the article to all whom I love. Fortunately, I consider myself to be not that important.

If you have any money at all, you are important to those who steal credit card and other financial data.

Very true! You can lose what little you have in the bank and have your credit card limits exceeded quite quickly. Internet users beware.

Minimal defense first step: change passwords frequently and make them harder to crack by using case sensitivity, numbers, no complete spelling of words without placing acceptable symbols in between letters.

Very good article Vic, thank you. This is why I use Comodo Dragon and WOT, and steer clear of all "adult" "porn" and "dating" sites - anyway who needs to "date" at 76! Really though, I have nothing to offer on my PC, nothing that matters to others. And I can block unwanted sites like IObit and their nonsense. Things will only get worse as lawlessness increases - world wide.

I too am 76 (as should be evident from the last 2 digits in my username). All of your message resonates with me and I will look into Comodo Dragon. Thanks for your post.