You might be less secure than you think when it comes to your personal privacy on the Web. Both private and public organizations are always presenting challenges to Web privacy. Search engines are routinely changing their privacy policies, and your Web browsing habits are tracked via cookies. You can help guard your Web privacy and stay safe online with these few common sense tips.
As a rule of thumb for good Web safety, filling out forms that require personal information should be avoided. This will help prevent that information from being entered into public records which can be searchable, aka Web results. To avoid filling out unnecessary forms that ask for too much personal information, you can use BugMeNot.
2. Clean Your Search History
Every single Web site you type into the address bar is kept track of by most Web browsers. Not only should you clear out your Web history periodically for privacy’s sake, but this will also keep your computer running at top speed. Your Google searches can be cleared out very easily. In Firefox, all you need to do is go to Tools, then Options, then Privacy to delete your search history. In Internet Explorer, you will need to click on Tools, then Internet Options to delete your search history.
3. Log Out Of Search Engines
In order to access the full array of their services, including search results most search engines these days require you to create an account and log in. It is always a good idea to log out of your account after executing your Web searches, in order to protect your privacy.
An auto-complete feature is now included into many browsers and search engines that will suggest endings for whatever word or sentences you might be typing in. While this is a very convenient feature, it should be something you get rid of if you’re looking for privacy.
4. Watch Your Downloads
When downloading anything (music, books, videos, software, etc.) from the Web, be extremely cautious. This is not only a good idea for advocates of Web privacy, but it is also a great way to keep your computer from malfunctioning or freezing up. Some programs include adware that will report back to a third-party your surfing habits that will then use that information to send you unwanted emails and ads, also known as spam. Therefore be very cautious when choosing what to download from the Web.
5. Use Common Sense
Don’t go to places on the Web that you would be embarrassed to have your wife, husband, children, or employer see; this is pretty self-explanatory. Out of all the methods on this list, this might be the most effective way to protect your Web privacy, despite its very low-tech approach.
6. Guard Your Private Information
Be sure before sharing anything online, that it’s not something you would mind sharing in real life, off the web. This includes blogs, websites, message boards, or any other form of social networking. Never share anything that would identify you in public, this is especially important for minors. Identifying details such as first and last names, addresses, phone numbers, user names, and passwords should be kept to yourself. Since and email address can be used to track other identifying information (see How to Find Information Using a Reverse Email Search) it should be kept as private as possible.
7. Use Caution When Using Social Media
Facebook and other social networking sites make it possible for people to connect with each other all over the world. This is why they are extremely popular. It is then important to make sure that what you share on these social networking sites would not reveal anything of a personal or financial nature. This can be done by making sure that your privacy settings are set appropriately. Try reading How to Block Searches of Your Facebook Profile for more on how to keep yourself safe on Facebook.
8. Watch Out For Scams
The old saying “If it seems too good to be true, than it probably is” is especially true for the Web. Links from friends that seem legit but lead to virus-laden websites, emails promising free computers, and all sorts of other Web scams can lead to all sorts of nasty viruses on your computer system and can make your online life quite unpleasant.
Before opening files, watching videos sent to you by friends or organizations, and following links you should think carefully. There are signs you can watch for that may indicate these might not be for real: some of these include lack of secure encryption (no HTTPS in the URL), improper grammar, and misspellings. Read: Five Ways You Can Check Out A Hoax on the Web, and What Is Phishing for more information on how to avoid common scams on the Web.
9. Protect Your System
With a few precautions such as a firewall, appropriate updates to your existing software programs (which ensures that all security protocols are kept up to date), and antivirus programs, keeping your computer safe from harmful content on the Web is simple. For a few free antivirus programs see: 101 Free Online Alternatives to Popular Desktop Software
10. Monitor Your Online Reputation
If you have ever Googled yourself, you might be surprised (even shocked) to see what is out there on the Web. With the precautions laid out in this article you can control much of what is out there on the Web, as well as keeping track of what is found about you in at least three different search engines on a regular basis. This process is accomplished on auto-pilot using news alerts or RSS.