Top 10 Web Privacy Tips
Maintaining privacy while using the Web, much like maintaining privacy when using email, is largely a matter of common sense. Privacy in the context of using the Web falls into two general categories: keeping others from knowing what sites you visit and controlling the amount of personal information that you provide to others. The following tips will provide you some insight into how to maintain at least some control over your personal information.
- Only give out information that is essential
Many sites that provide goods or services over the Web often ask you for personal information before processing your request. If the information is not required, do not provide it. Examples include commercial sites that ask you to fill out surveys when you make your first purchase, or sites offering free services such as Web-based email that may also request information about your income and lifestyle
- Do not provide your name, mailing address, email address, or telephone number unless it is necessary
Many sites require some kind of registration in order to use some free service or to process an order.
If you expect a response, then clearly you should provide enough information for that response.
However, you should not provide any additional information.
- Do not provide personal or financial information to a site that you do not trust
If you have doubts about the credibility of a Web site, especially a site that has no presence outside of the Internet, then do not provide any information about yourself and do not have any financial transaction with that site.
- Limit the personal information that you post on the Web
Avoid having your home address, home telephone number, or personal email address posted on the Web, whether that be a chat room, Web page, or other piece of Web content that can be accessed by the general public. If you have to post this kind of contact information, make the effort to have alternative information posted. For example, instead of a home address, rent a post office box and use that address. Instead of a personal email address, you can use the address from a free Web-based account instead.
- Use a publicly accessible computer
If you use a publicly accessible computer, such as one in a public library, it will be difficult to associate you with the sites that you visit.
- Use a disposable email address when dealing with commercial sites
Disposable email addresses are useful for those sites that need to communicate with you by email.
Often, these same sites invite you to join one or more mailing lists.
Sometimes these sites may also send you unsolicited email or pass on or sell you email address to others who will do the same. If you start to receive excessive amounts of unsolicited email, you can discontinue using the disposable email account and find another one. Refer to the Top 10 Email Privacy Tips page for related information.
- Develop an alternative Web identity
Because some Web users are more prone to unsolicited email or other unsolicited attention, it may be useful to develop an alternative identity in order to not draw attention to yourself.
For example, if you are 14 and female, it may be very unwise to admit those facts in places such as chat rooms. Admitting that you have a yearly income in excess of $100,000 may draw a different sort of unwelcome attention. An alternative identity may be most useful for those sites that ask for personal information in exchange for access to information or services.
- Limit your personal Web use at work
Most acceptable use policies of computers in the workplace limit how workers can use the Web while at work. Also, companies in the U.S. are allowed to closely monitor employee use of computers in the workplace,
including recording what sites you may visit, and the amount of time that you spend at these sites.
If you do not want your employer to know what you are doing online that is personal and not work-related, then avoid using the Web at work unless it is related to your job. Refer to the Top 10 Tips for using the Web at Work page for related information.
- If you have any doubts about an activity, don’t do it
If you feel that a Web site or an activity on a Web site has a high risk of compromising your privacy,
then either avoid that site or avoid that activity.
Whatever opportunity, information, or product you may have received is likely not worth the loss of your personal privacy.
Check out the Parenting and the Internet podcast for more about the book and the author.
Using the Web