TOOLS FOR PROTECTING PERSONAL PRIVACY ONLINE
What is online
privacy? Online privacy gives you the power to control the release
of personal and financial information over the Internet. Although
there are new developments every day to help you protect your privacy,
right now there are many things you can do to protect the
personally identifiable information that is gathered about you when
you surf and shop online.
some common sense rules online that will help you protect your privacy
and the privacy of your family. Then, check out the growing range
of new technological tools available to help you to control the
information you share, surf anonymously and remove your name from
These days, all consumer Web sites that treat information ethically have
to Remember for Protecting Personal Privacy:
- Look for
or provide information. Take a minute and carefully read the policy.
the home page. The policy should tell you exactly what information
a Web site collects and what it is used for. If the Web site shares
the information with anyone else it should tell you and give you
tell you about the security used to protect your personal information
and how you can look at the information that is collected about
you. These days, all consumer Web sites that treat information
ethically have privacy policies. Look for them and use them. If
them to post one.
- Look for
a privacy seal. These seals, which are a recent innovation,
give assurance that a Web site is abiding by its posted privacy
policy. BBBOnLine (a subsidiary of the Council of Better
Business Bureaus) and TRUSTe seals provide a mechanism to handle
complaints by consumers who feel their privacy has been violated.
The seals also mean a company has instituted systems for practicing
what it preaches about privacy protection. If you dont find
a seal at a Web site, write to the site and ask for one.
- Do not under
any circumstances give your password to anyone. Hackers and
scammers often try to entice you to give you password through
a variety of tricks. Be careful. Use different passwords at different
Web sites and change your passwords every now and then.
- Use a secure
browser that complies with an industry security standard,
such as Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) that encrypts or scrambles
- Print a
copy of your purchase order and confirmation number for your
records when shopping online. Other tips are available at www.bbb.org/online/ and at www.truste.org.
The market for
privacy protection products is growing and companies are responding
with a host of technological tools and services. One of the changes
expected to have significant impact is the Platform for Privacy
Preferences (P3P), being developed by the World
Wide Web Consortium. P3P will allow surfers to communicate their
preferences in sharing personal information with Web sites. With
electronically and issue you a warning if it can't find a privacy
statement. It will also alert you if the Web site wants more information
than you have indicated a willingness to disclose.
products work in different ways. Some of these are available free
and many can be downloaded. Here is a partial list of those that
are available now or expected to be offered in the next few months.
Privacy Alliance does not endorse any of these tools, but encourages
you to review whats available and decide which product and/or
service best fits your needs.
Tools for protecting
privacy can be divided into two kinds; those that work to shield
your identify and those that help you negotiate with a Web site
over what personally- identifiable information is shared. Anonymizers
make you "anonymous" by giving you an untraceable alias.
While a useful tool for some consumers, anonymizers can protect
lawbreakers. As The New York Times wrote: "The technologies
are morally neutral. They could be used, for example to commit a
crime or to report one anonymously."
a new and relatively untested technology, allow you to exercise
choice in what sorts of personal information is shared at each site
you visit. They require that you create a detailed personal profile
to enable the technology to negotiate the release of personal information
on your behalf.
one of the best-known and oldest products, allows you to surf
anonymously. It also offers anonymous email and Net access. Visit
from the Canadian company, Zero Knowledge Systems, will charge
$50 a year to provide up to five online aliases and allow anonymous
profiles. Because the Montreal-based company does not have to
follow U.S. law, Freedom can use stronger encryption than similar
American products. Not even Zero Knowledge can trace surfing,
posting or chat room visits back to the user. It will be available
later this spring.
developed by Bell Labs and AT&T Labs, uses a virtual "crowd"
of people to hide your identity while Web surfing. Users are placed
in random groups and each time you instruct a browser the command
is randomly routed through the machine of someone else in the
group so that it is impossible to track a group member individually.
routing system, under development by the Naval Research Laboratory,
keeps third parties from tracking your surfing activities by randomly
routing messages through a series of routers before the message
reaches its destination.
SERVERS and BROWSERS
Most Web sites
offer some protection for sensitive account information, but to
be safe you should shop at sites with one of two security methods:
Secure Electronic Transfer Transaction or Secure Socket Layer. Both
Netscape Navigator and Microsoft Internet Explorer can hook into
Transfer Transaction (SET) works by using encryption to safeguard
your credit card information while its traveling over the
Web. It also uses digital signatures to ensure the identity of
both you and the merchant. One advantage of SET is that your credit
card number is not stored in the merchants browser.
Layer (SSL) creates a secure connection for transmitting documents
and information such as credit card numbers over the Internet.
It is fast and easy for Web sites to set up. SSL may become the
accepted standard for Web based transactions that require a high
degree of security.
It is easy to
tell if youre using a secure site, just look for an "s"
on the end of the "http" in the sites Web address
("https"). The "https" will appear when you
are on a screen that asks for your account information.
A recent development
is secure HTTP (SHTTP) a secure method for transmitting individual
messages, such as email, over the Web. This differs from SSL and
SET, which are primarily used for doing business at Web sites.
information about how to protect your privacy, check out the Call
for Action Web site, www.callforaction.org
where they have posted the ABCs of Privacy. For information on computer cookies refer allaboutcookies.org.