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Security Tips: How to Protect Yourself from Spying on the Web
By: wubayou
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    While most people likely enjoy the act of surfing the Internet, they do it with the intent of not having their activities tracked. Many websites use tracking cookies to monitor activities, however, meaning your actions are not entirely private.

    In August, several parents sued the software company Clearspring Technologies, claiming that they violated the law by tracking the web activities of children and other users. The violations allegedly occurred during visits by web surfers to sites owned by Disney, Warner Bros., and other popular companies. Clearspring set Flash cookies on the sites to help track user activities not only while on the sites themselves, but on further Internet destinations as well. 

    This past summer also saw a similar suit brought against Quantcast, a Clearspring competitor. In that case, Quantcast was also accused of partaking in unlawful tracking activities concerning visitors to sites of its clients, such as ABC and NBC.

    While lawsuits against such firms that participate in online tracking are a step in the right direction for privacy advocates, the practice is still spread across the web. There are some methods you can take, however, to counteract them.

    If you use Mozilla's Firefox browser, there are some add-ons you can download to amp up your privacy levels online. The OptimizeGoogle add-on can be used to keep your cookies from being reported to Google Analytics, and it will allow you to make your Google cookie UID anonymous. Another Google-related add-on within Firefox is GoogleSharing. It allows you to toggle Google's history recorder, so that you can choose when you want your activities to be recorded. This toggling is accomplished by an simple anonymizer button that the add-on places at the bottom of the browser window.

    TrackMeNot is a Firefox add-on that covers up your search activities by submitting various random search queries at once to disguise the ones you actually make.  You can tweak the frequency of the queries that are submitted, and you also have the option of picking among the major search engines such as Google, Bing, Yahoo, and AOL. 

    Yet another add-on that is essential to privacy for Firefox users is BetterPrivacy.  Through BetterPrivacy, you can customize tracking preferences by either selectively allowing certain Flash cookies to exist or deleting them altogether. For complete cleansing of Flash cookies, there is also the Flash Cookie Cleaner program, which can be downloaded regardless of whether you solely use the Firefox browser or not. 

    If you have a webcam and microphone on your computer, you will also want to maintain your privacy from outsiders, as there have been instances of those being remotely activated and used for even more in-depth spying. One way to protect yourself is to go to the Adobe Flash Player Help site. Once there, visit the Global Privacy Settings panel. Under the settings for camera and microphone, set it to either always deny or always ask to prevent websites from unwanted access. If on a website such as YouTube, you can right-click the time bar on one of the page's videos. Select Settings, look for the privacy icon in the bottom row, select Deny, and Remember. This will reject attempts by the site to access your microphone or camera. 

    For more on this topic, visit http://news.cnet.com/8301-13880_3-20017503-68.html

    DISCLAIMER: The content provided in this article is not warranted or guaranteed by Developer Shed, Inc. The content provided is intended for entertainment and/or educational purposes in order to introduce to the reader key ideas, concepts, and/or product reviews. As such it is incumbent upon the reader to employ real-world tactics for security and implementation of best practices. We are not liable for any negative consequences that may result from implementing any information covered in our articles or tutorials. If this is a hardware review, it is not recommended to open and/or modify your hardware.

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