Have you ever tried googling your name in the internet? Not because you suffer from some delusional fantasy of having hoards of internet-based fan sites devoting their life to blogging about you on the net, but simply to appease your own sense of curiosity. Come on, admit it. I’m sure you must have done at some point in your life. Haven’t you been the least bit curious as to what the internet world has written about you? I have, and I was surprised and unbelievably frightened by the wealth of information I have discovered about myself just by typing my name in the google search box.
Not only did the internet reveal my profession, it also went on to recount my academic career from high school straight to law school. As I post this entry, google will automatically update the search results and reveal this blog entry as the latest link to the search of Diane Cecilia Yu.
Scary, huh? If information such as these is easy to obtain just by googling a person’s name, imagine the sort of sensitive information hackers could get if they really put their hearts into it! We cannot rely on the law to protect us should we ever find ourselves victimized of identity theft or internet fraud. Thus, protective measures must be undertaken to put our minds at ease.
Henceforth, for everyone’s peace of mind, I have taken the liberty of reposting Jim Sheng’s tips on protecting your net-related privacy. After all, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.
1. Keep anonymous online
Do not reveal personal information inadvertently
Most of the computer programs, like email handlers and browsers, have options that you can set to specify personal details, and many forums or websites ask personal information when you sign up. Leave them blank or if the system insists, then give a reasonable looking but fictitious name and a fake birth date as a precaution.
Don't log on to surf a site if you don't have to; If you are really eager to express your view, log in anonymously or use a nick name. Never use your real name as the display name.
While surfing the Internet you leave data traces that can reveal their surfing habits. This information can be gathered by the provider or by secretly observing third parties. You can avoid leaving some Internet traces such as your IP address by access through a proxy server or using an anonymous surfing software to hide your computer identity.
If for certain reasons (e.g. job hunting, conducting business) you don't want be completely invisible online, only publish information that is relevant to your purpose and keep sensitive data from the websites.
2. Use more than one email address so that one is reserved solely for your personal communication
Provide email addresses that do not identify you personally on Web sites that you don’t know or trust.
I always think that a person should have at least three email addresses: one for work-related correspondences, one for family and friends, and one for receiving junk mails and giving out when requested on the Internet. Use email address firstname.lastname@example.org' instead of 'email@example.com' as your junk mail receiver.
3. Use anti-virus, anti-spyware and firewall software
and make sure it’s up-to-date.
4. Prevent web sites from tracking your activities
Configure your browser or operating system to manage pop-ups, cookies or block specific Web sites to prevent web sites from tracking your activities. Clean up your browser history, Temporary Internet files, cookies on a regular basis.
Use ClearAllHistory you can delete browser history, stored passwords, clear AutoComplete forms and address bar history, delete Temporary Internet Files (cache), delete cookies, empty Windows Temporary Folders (Temporary files directory), clear Clipboard, Recycle Bin content and Recent Documents list.
5. Change passwords on a regular basis
If you have to write down all your account names and passwords somewhere to help you memorize, write on a physical notebook instead of in a file on your computer.
6. Do not reveal personal information to strangers or just-met "friends" in chat rooms, message boards or newsgroups
7. Don't give out credit card numbers in a non-secure environment
If you're making a purchase through a web site, read the company's security policy before you buy. A secure web page will usually have a URL that begins "https" instead of "http", and most browsers will alert you to the fact that you are going to a secured (or unsecured) page. A secure server will show on your browser with a closed lock icon at the bottom in Windows, or at the top on Mac.
Avoid accessing personal or private information (e.g. your online banking account) from a computer that is shared at work, library, or webcafe because there is no guarantee that this information is not tracked.
8. If your child belongs to a social networking site
(MySpace, Facebook, Tagged), look closely at what information they have posted in their member profiles and blogs, including photos and videos. Predators, bullies, profanity and threats often occur in these types of sites.