25 Ways to Guard Your Online Privacy
by Leon Erlanger former Editor of PC Magazine


  1. Don't reply to ANY unsolicited emails. Even unsubscribing will alert the senders that your email address is being used.
  2. Use your messaging software's filtering tools to reject mail from your frequent spammers' email addresses or with certain words (sex, for example) in the subject line.
  3. Find out if your ISP has a spam blocking service. If not, sign up for a third party spam blocking service such as Brightmail (www.brightmail.com).
  4. Contact the large directory services such as Bigfoot, infospace, Switchboard, Yahoo People Search, and whowhere, to tell them you don't want to be listed.
  5. Encrypt and digitally sign all your sensitive email messages. If your messaging software doesn't support robust encryption, download PGP Freeware encryption software (http://web.mit.edu/network/pgp.html) and use that.
  6. Use WinZip (www.winzip.com) software to compress and password protect your attachments. 
  7. To avoid cookies sent via email, use email client software, such as Eudora Pro, that lets you shut off its automatic Web Browser rendering engine.
  8. Don't read email on a machine that doesn't belong to you or someone you trust. If you use a browser to read email on someone else's machine, use the browser's Clear History tool when you finish to prevent subsequent users from getting into your mailbox.
  9. Don't send sensitive personal messages on your work machine.
  10. Keep your antivirus software updated at all times.
Web Browsing
  1. Upgrade your Web browser to 128-bit encryption.
  2. Read Web site privacy policies carefully and make sure you understand them. Look on your favorite Web sites for privacy seals of approval from BBBOnline, TRUSTe, ePublicEye, or CPA WebTrust.
  3. If you're reluctant to provide certain information on an online form, don't.
  4. Set up a special free email account with Yahoo, Hotmail, or other free services and supply those addresses when you fill out forms.
  5. Before you give your credit card number to any commerce site, make absolutely sure it's secure. Look for a closed padlock icon at the bottom of the screen or https in the URL.
  6. Delete all the cookies in your cookie directory (generally c:\windows\cookies  or  "%userprofile%\cookies" ) frequently.
  7. Disable cookies in your browser (an extreme measure) or set your browser to alert you to cookies, or to accept only cookies that return to their original server or, better yet, install cookie management software (such as Webroot Software's WindowWasher or The Limit Software's CookieCrusher) to control which cookies your PC will accept.
  8. Use an anonymous browser such as Anonymizer to hide your identity and filter cookies.
  9. If a Web site gives you the option to opt out of tracking, take it.
  10. If you have a fast and constant DSL or cable connection, get some personal firewall software, such as Norton Personal FireWall or Network ICE's BlackICE Defender, and install it, FAST!
  11. Turn off file and printer sharing in Windows if you're not using it. Intruders will have an easier time accessing your files if this is activated.
  12. Elect not to accept news or updates from Web sites you visit.
  13. Fake your return address when you use chat or newsgroups.
  14. Turn off your Instant Messaging software when you're not using it.

  15. Set your Instant Messaging software to allow only people you trust (in your buddy list, for example) to access you.