What You Can Do

        It isnít easy to protect oneís privacy in a world where information Ė especially personal information Ė has become such a valuable commodity.  Fortunately, there are several things we can do to make our lives less prone to intrusion.

        When using e-mail, one doesnít have to choose between monitored e-mail on the company network and marketing-driven e-mail on the Web.  Other, more private options are available.  Remailers such as Anonymizer.com are services that allow one to send e-mail anonymously.  These services operate by sending each e-mail message through a series of computers, thus stripping away all personally identifying information in the header and erasing all traces of its origin (Stroh, 1999).  Anonymizer.com is located at http://www.anonymizer.com/3.0/index.shtml.

        ZipLip is a free e-mail service that doesnít require registration, nor does it even ask for oneís name or e-mail address.  ZipLip works by posting your password-protected message on its own server and notifying the recipient where this message can be found.  After the recipient reads the message, ZipLip thoroughly deletes it from the server (Guernsey, 1999; Stroh, 1999).  Try it yourself at http://www.ziplip.com/.

        Anonymous mailing services can be useful if you donít expect a reply to your message, but they can severely hinder any attempt at two-way communication.  Another option is to use encryption.  Encryption is the process of putting electronic documents into a code that only you and your intended recipients can decipher.  Microsoft Outlook and Netscape both support encrypted e-mail to some extent, but if you want something stronger...

        1on1Lite is a free e-mail service that offers 2048-bit encryption.  The world's fastest Cray computer, capable of computing one billion instructions per second, can break a 128-bit encrypted message in seven days.  It would take approximately one and a half million trillion years for the same computer to decode a 2048-bit encrypted message (http://www.intrapromote.com/service_op_release1.html, 1999).  Ridiculous?  Yes.  Private?  Hell, yes.  This may be more protection than anyone will ever need, but the service is completely free (and itís easy to disable the advertisements).  1on1Lite also lets you program your messages to self-destruct after a set period of time.  You can find out more and download the software at http://www.1on1mail.com/index.html.

         By registering with a free service called InTether, one retains even greater control over the messages one sends.  InTether allows one to specify the number of times an encrypted document may be opened or printed, how long it may remain open, and at what time the document will self destruct, down to the exact minute.  Learn more about InTether at http://www.infraworks.com/.

        Several Web sites offer anonymous browsing, acting as an intermediary between you and the sites you wish to see.  These Web anonymizers divert cookies and hide your Internet Protocol address from the pages you visit.  Many of these services are available free of charge, though they do tend to slow down oneís browsing to some extent (Stroh, 1999).
        Anonymizer.com http://www.anonymizer.com/3.0/index.shtml
        Lucentís ProxyMate http://www.proxymate.com/
        NoProxy.com http://www.noproxy.com/
        Janus ReWebber http://www.rewebber.de/
        Axis.Net http://www.aixs.net/aixs/
        Privada Inc.ís Internet Incognito http://www.privada.net/
        Zero-Knowlege Systemsí Freedom http://www.freedom.net/

        If you downloaded RealJukebox before November 1, 1999, be sure to download the new patch that prevents RealNetworks from collecting information about your musical tastes.  The patch can be reached from this page: http://www.real.com/company/pressroom/pr/99/updateadvisory.html

        There is a free encryption program available on the Web called Pretty Good Privacy, or PGP.  This program allows the user to encrypt computer files and e-mail messages with up to 4096-bit encryption.  An additional feature allows the user to truly delete a file from his or her computer.  PGP does this by repeatedly recording random 0's and 1's over the space formerly occupied by the deleted file.  You can install PGP at http://web.mit.edu/network/pgp.html, but only if you are a citizen of the United States or Canada.  The U.S. Government considers PGP as powerful a military weapon as a jet fighter or a cruise missile (Lewis, 1998).

        One of the best ways to preserve your privacy on the Web is to maintain a low profile.  Online directories like Bigfoot (http://www.bigfoot.com/), Switchboard (http://switchboard.com/), and Yahoo People Search (http://www.people.yahoo.com/) gather their information from local phone books.  If you find your listing in any of these directories and would like it removed, simply contact the directory administrator (Attaran, 1999).  Keeping a low profile in your offline life is also a good idea.  Junkbusters (http://www.junkbusters.com/) is an excellent Web resource for clearing away the junk in your life, from junkmail and telemarketing calls to cookies and annoying advertisements on the Internet.  This site offers free software called Internet Junkbuster that allows you to filter out whatever ads you never want to see again.

        Choosing and using oneís password wisely is an effective way to protect all of oneís computer activity.   Real personal information such as oneís Social Security number, phone number, or birthday do not make safe passwords.  Privacy experts recommend using a combination of letters, numbers, and symbols.  If you have the opportunity to use different passwords for different tasks, this is even better (Attaran, 1999).

        You can set your browser to disable cookies, or at least warn you when a Web site is trying to store one on your hard drive.  In Netscape Navigator, select Preferences from the Edit menu, then select the Advanced settings.  In Microsoft Internet Explorer, select Internet Options from the Tools menu, then select the Advanced settings.  There are certain Web sites that require you to accept cookies, such as the New York Times (http://www.nytimes.com/).  Of course, you can always disable the cookies after you leave these sites, and no one will ever know.

        Be sure to visit some of the sites listed at the bottom of the Bibliography page.  These sites will help you to stay informed about current privacy issues long after the articles referenced in this report have expired or become obsolete.  Good luck!

Back to the home page                                                                                      E-mail me at mkirby@ucla.edu
Computers and the Web                                                                                 Last updated December 8, 1999
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