Protect Your Privacy Online

Clever crooks are using Internet schemes to grab your personal information. Telemarketers are calling us during dinner. Our mailboxes are filling up with junk mail. Here's how to protect your privacy online and at home.

By Joe Kita

Protect Personal Info on Your Laptop

Insurance statistics shows that if you own a laptop, there is a 1 in 14 chance it will be stolen. The Computer Insurance Institute estimates that 1.2 million laptops are lost in hotels and airports each year. If you have any personal information stored on your laptop, you need to protect it!

To protect sensitive information stored on yours, there are several options. One, for $59.99 per year (or $109.99 for three years), is Computrace LoJack for Laptops. The software provides the backing of a

“theft recovery team” that will track your stolen computer and report its location to police. The Premium edition software remotely deletes personal data. Computrace LoJack has been a top seller for years.

Cover Your Tracks Online

Just as your computer's browser maintains a history of the websites you visit, your Internet service provider (ISP) may keep an electronic log of the ones you peruse. Until recently, this was all just worthless data. But now some ISPs are considering selling these lists to companies that analyze them and then send targeted ads back to you. If you're bothered by this, there are three things you can do:

  • Use the International Computer Science Institute (ICSI) Netalyzr and let the site automatically check whether your ISP is using monitoring devices.
  • Since this check is not comprehensive, call your ISP and ask if it's contemplating selling browsing data; if so, object.
  • Download a free software program from Tor, which will help block those prying ISP eyes.

Similarly, when you type a phrase into a search engine, you're broadcasting your interests and personal information. Like ISPs, some search companies routinely gather, store and sell analyses of such data strings. That's why you should never search your full name and Social Security number or your name and password. Some other tips from the Windows Presentation Foundation (WPF):

  • Don't sign up for e-mail with your favourite search engine. This makes it easier to link you and your interests.
  • Use a variety of engines and computers for searching. This makes it more difficult to profile you.
  • Find out if your ISP uses a static IP address system, and if it does, periodically request a new IP address (essentially your computer's address).
  • Use software that masks your computer's address, like anonymizer.com and anonymouse.org.

 

Temporary E-mail Address

If you're ordering something from a website and want to avoid future spam, or if there's someone you'd really like to be honest with but only if you can remain anonymous, then register for a Guerilla temporary e-mail account. It's free, and you'll be able to use the address to receive messages for 15 minutes and send them for 60 minutes. After that, poof!—you never existed.

 

No Calls From Telemarketers

In 2008, the Canadian government put the National Do Not Call Registry into effect. If you add your home and/or cell number (sorry, no work numbers) to this list, telemarketers should stop bothering you within 31 days.

Registration is valid for a three year period, but you won’t be notified when it expires. Charities, political organizations and telephone surveys are exempt, as are businesses you have called or dealt with in the last six to 18 months.

Register your phone number online and then you can check the status of your registration. You can also register by calling 886-580-3625, but make sure you’re calling from the number you wish to register.

 

Stop Junk Mailers

Stop those annoying “preapproved” credit and insurance offers, along with rest of junk mailing by participating in the Red Dot Campaign.

Placing one of the Red Dot stickers or a “No Admail” or “No Junk Mail”  on your mailbox lets delivery people know you don’t want to receive junk mail.

Since this opt-out policy varies by letter carrier and region in Canada if may be ignored. Contact your nearest post office or call 866-607-6301 to let them know you don’t want to receive junk mail.

   

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