Friday, 9 March 2012

Protecting Your Personal Information

There has been a growing concern in the last few months about the amount of personal information people give away online. If you haven't thought about it, perhaps you should.

One such worry for the general public is the ability for sites to identify visitors and track their browsing and searching habits using cookies. For example, in the UK the ICO (Information Commissioner's Office) is introducing laws to try and give users the choice of allowing cookies to be set on a site by site basis and forcing sites to inform visitors what cookies are being set and the reason why. Cookies on their own are not a huge issue as they rarely contain personal information themselves. The problem comes when a cookie can be linked to an account held online and when that cookie can be read by any site. Some people don't mind their browsing being analysed so they can be shown targeted/personalised advertising for things they might actually be interested in, rather than random and inappropriate stuff. Personally I feel a little uneasy about anyone being able to track my browsing and know it is me. For example, I don't really want anyone knowing I have an online account with a particular bank - purely for security reasons. The same goes for the site I use to access my Webmail, do my shopping at or do freelance work for. Call me paranoid but I don't think that is anyone else's business but my own.

Do you know how many sites you have given your name, email address or other personal details to? This includes sites you have made purchases from, social networking sites, those running competitions that you have entered, those that have a contact form you have used to enquire about something etc. I'll bet most people have no idea. And when was the last time you checked their privacy policy (if they even have one) to see how the information will be stored and used?

The purpose of this post is just to remind people that the details you give to online services can be used for much more than you might expect. One of the side benefits of using SafeSearchLock means that you can lock on the safe searching and family filters for many websites without having to give them your personal details, create an account, or log in to them. That feature alone has to be worth £2! ;-)

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