Michelle De Mooy: Hi! I'm Michelle De Mooy with Consumer Action. Today I'm going to discuss how to protect your privacy while surfing the web. While you're online, hundreds of unseen companies are installing different tracking technologies onto your computer via cookies, or small bits of code that download onto computer and track your activities online.
Not only does this scooping up of your personal data pose a significant threat to your right to personal privacy, it's also done without your knowledge or consent. There are steps you can take to protect yourself from unwanted online tracking and Internet browsers are a great place to start.
All of the major browsers in the market today offer online tracking protection options to their users. Under Menu options, you can delete your cookies and browser history to limit the connection between tracking information and you personally. While these options are affective, theyre temporary, because you have to restart them every time you start a new browser session.
Also to get around users who have discovered how to delete cookies, some companies will use flash cookies, which actually reinstall after a user deletes them Others may use beacons which record more detailed information about you as you surf such as the words you're typing or where you're moving your mouse.
There are currently no limits and law or regulation on what can be collected, but Savvy Consumers can use existing tools, that help them limit or control online tracking. Many web browsers offer the ability for consumers to use a Do Not Track signal. Do Not Track is a technology and policy idea, that allows you to tell websites through something called a header, that you do not wish to be tracked.
It's kind of like holding up a sign as you browse online that says I dont want to be tracked. However for Do Not Track to be meaningful, the websites you visit must agree to honor your preference to not be tracked, which most currently do not. To learn more about Do Not Track, you can visit Consumer Action Educational website respectmydnt.
Search engines are another good place to look for tracking protection options. Many people are unaware that when you use a search engine like Google, Bing or Yahoo, your search terms are seen not only by the search engine, but also by any website you click on after that and when you visit websites, your computer automatically generates a device specific number that can be used to identify you directly.
To counter this, consider using alternative search engines like Start page and DuckDuckGo. These search engines do not collect or share your personal information and limit the ability of third-parties to view the sites you visit or your physical location. Also look for companies that provide ad and tracking blocking, deletion of personal data from the web and data encryption for e-mails, credit card numbers and other sensitive information.
Another way to control tracking is using add-on services. Adblock Edge, Disconnect and HTTPS Everywhere are all downloadable services that allow consumers to block unwanted tracking and advertising.
The tools are out there. You just need to find the ones that suit your needs. Start looking for the best options to protect yourself against online tracking.