While I agree with Vint Cert, Evangelist at Google, when he said in a recent article ( http://gigaom.com/... ) that Internet Privacy needs an Institutional Solution (as in: Tell Congress You WON'T Tolerate Unconstitutional Surveillance, All you need is your zip code and this phone number: 1-STOP-323-NSA), he said in part, worth quoting at length:
“It has to be institutional; it also has to do with social conventions that we adopt. The reason there isn’t a technological solution is that the ability to infer information from partial information is extremely powerful — you can take information which appears to be anonymous and (extrapolate identity). It has to be a set of conventions that we adopt, either a legal framework or social conventions.BUT THERE ARE SOME EASY AND BASIC THINGS YOU CAN DO TO BETTER YOUR INTERNET PRIVACY.
“Technology is racing ahead so quickly and we are so eager to embrace it with our mobiles and everything else that we don’t fully appreciate the side effects. When we put photos on the web and other people tag them, we create (problems) for people who just happen to be in the image. They get caught… we learned this with Street View.
“There are a lot of things that we do everyday that we think are innocent… but there are cascades of things that happen. I don’t think we’ve figured out what the right intuitive set of social conventions should be in order to protect privacy. We’re going to have to learn by making mistakes.
“This can’t be just a national issue because the internet is everywhere. The consequence of that is it causes us to confront head-on this problem of global issues, of frameworks, legal frameworks, social conventions and the like.”
Cookies are little "crumbs" that sites put on your computer. Using these "crumbs" data points from the sites you visit are collected. Over time, this data is condensed to form a “digital profile.” Since there are no laws preventing companies from seeing these profiles, they are often times sold and then employed to gauge public opinion about products. Cookies are required by many sites for the site to work correctly. So totally Blocking them is not a practical solution, but there are some things you CAN DO about "tracking cookies".
COOKIES AND CHROME
Google collects A LOT of data about your internet travels, and uses that to target ads at you, I am in NO WAY SUGGESTING that Google is an example of good Internet Privacy stewardship, as a matter of Fact I PERSONALLY tell all my friends NOT to use Google.com, and to use DUCKDUCKGO.com or DOGPILE.com for their internet searches. (DISCLAIMER I used to work at ASK.com and GOOGLE.com) So I am in no way suggestion you jump on the Google band wagon, BUT if you use Google Chrome there are some great tools available, such as DoNotTrackMe that will help prevent tracking cookies. If you do use Chrome, (I am not suggesting you do, because GOOGLE WILL THEN TRACK YOU!) DO install DoNotTrackMe after Deleting your cookies.
If you use FIREFOX, (I HIGHLY suggest you use this browser, it is produced by a highly reputable organization, who's motto is: We are Mozilla, Doing good is part of our code and their code is open source! COCOON! ( http:&xC5;getcocoon.com ) Cocoon is an all-in-one plugin that makes everything you do online secure, virus-free and private. Without Cocoon websites and hackers have access to your computer to leave cookies or infect it with viruses and malware. Cocoon helps block this! Cocoon is HIGHLY rated on Download.cnet.com, and is also available from there, ( http://download.cnet.com/... )
USE AN ALTERNATIVE EMAIL ACCOUNT
This is probably one of the easiest and most overlooked things to do. Keep your personnel email for private emails to and from friends and people you know. Create a gmail or Hotmail account that you give out publicly as a SPAM address, and get in the habit when publishing a web page that requires an email address, emailing an anonymous party, joining a chat room, or commenting on a blog, of using this SPAM email address. Using an email address created for the sole purpose of online activity like the aforementioned will prevent your personal email account from being targeted by spammers.
AVOID USING VITAL PASSWORDS ON PUBLIC COMPUTERS
This may be OBVIOUS to most, but restrict private data and net usage to your home computer, not a Public or Company PC. Many employers monitor what their employees do on the internet, which may compromise important passwords. Additionally, be weary of using important passwords and information, like your social security and credit card numbers, when using public computers.
DO NOT USE YOUR FULL BIRTHDAY ON SOCIAL MEDIA SITES
It has been proven that it only takes 6 data points to uniquely identify you in the world. Your Birthday is one of data point. Unfortunately, identity thieves are notorious for using birth dates as the foundation of their craft. In order to make it more difficult for thieves to do this, try to enter just the month or try leaving off the year. Your friends won't mind, believe me!
GEO-LOCATION - IF YOU DON'T USE IT, LOSE IT!
For GPS Navigation during traveling, Geo-location is great, and GPS/Geo-location services have become a common feature on smart phones, mobile apps, and social networking sites. The frequent tagging of an individual’s location is a perceivable hazard, and is not necessary, you are just telling thieves when you are not home. It is such a hazard and a liability for companies that provide public location services that Google is doing away with Latitude. If you are not purposely using your geo-locator, it may be time to disable it. I would also suggest looking at your privacy settings on things like 4square and Facebook and make sure your "Check-ins" are limited to FRIENDS ONLY!
Be aware that privacy settings are constantly changing. It is vital to always update your settings and protect the information you share online. However, remember that privacy does not truly exist on the internet, so do not post sensitive or important information online.
I use Facebook, my one social media outlet, and there is a great tool to assist you in making Facebook a lot more secure, it is AVG's Privacy Fix. If you use Facebook, as I do, (Yes, it is EVIL, but we all have our vices!), then download and run this tool, it will help you review your privacy settings and tell you the pros and cons of different settings.
SEARCH ENGINES and BROWSERS
I touched on this earlier, but it is SO important that it deserves it own topic! Be careful what browsers and search engines you use. Internet Explorer is the most popular web browser; hence it has the most data theft. Therefore, it may be better to use an open source browser, like Mozilla Firefox, to decrease your vulnerability of being the victim of viruses and data theft. Additionally, although Google is a reliable and efficient search engine, Google builds data profiles on their users, based on Gmail accounts and web searches, and sells them to companies. Making money off your likes, websites you visit and targeting you for marketing and spam. There are ANONYMOUS ways to use Google and other Sites, these site fall into a category called META-Searches. They sort of proxy the search for you, and have the benefit of searching more than just Google, hide your information from the search engine, since their server does the search for you and returns the results to your Web Browser. As I said earlier I use DuckDuckGo APP on my smart phone, (I love the articles it provides for reading on the Bus!) and DogPile.com as my default search in my Web Browsers.