01 Sep 2010
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7 tips to protect your privacy

Do you worry about who’s tracking you as you surf the web? Here are some ways you can reduce the number of people watching you online in the hope of selling you something:

1. Set your settings:

If you want to do a web search without being tracked, you can set your search for ‘private’ or ‘incognito’ browsing. With Internet Explorer or Firefox, you can do that by going into ‘tools’ and setting the preference to ‘private’. With Chrome, hit: Control/Shift/N. A page will come up saying "You have gone incognito” and explain what that means. The catch: This privacy setting must be turned on every time you want a private search.

2. Plug-in privacy:

A free product called Abine automatically turns on privacy settings every time you search, but it does not work with all web browsers, including Google’s Chrome.

3. Disconnect:

If you have a late-model cell phone, it’s also tracking you with a GPS device. If you don’t want to leave a trail of where you are now and everywhere you’ve been, turn it off when it’s not in use.

4. Check your profile:

If you search the web, you’re likely to already have a profile on Google that says what products you’re interested in – pets, crafts, etc. To check it, go to Google.com/ ads/preferences. If you don’t want to have the advertisements you see on every site to be affected by these preferences, opt out. Google has a nice little video explaining how.

5. Don’t enter:

Want to win a trip to Hawaii? A free dinner at your favourite restaurant? An iPad? When you toss your business card into the bowl or fill out a form, the information you provide is likely to be collected and resold.

6. Skip registration:

If you bought a new refrigerator, computer or camera, the manufacturer is likely to ask you to register the device. Their pitch is that registration will allow them to provide a warranty (as promised), giving you the assurance that if the product breaks in the first year or two, you can have it replaced. In reality, that registration is likely to go directly to a marketing firm rather than the manufacturer. You don’t need to register and provide this private information to be covered under the warranty. But save your receipt.

 7. Opt out:

You can take yourself off direct marketing lists, which get you reams of credit offers and advertisements, by using the Do Not Mail and Do Not Call Services have been run by the Marketing Association. NB: this service is free to NZ householders but not available for businesses. If your business is on a list run by DataMarket and you want to be removed, just ask them.  If a particular company is being a pest and refuses to desist, contact the Privacy Commissioner. Her office can also advise about spam. Finally, try not to be tempted by special offers and giveaways. Many of these have an ongoing marketing string attached.

*Some material sourced from CBS Moneywatch.

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