Consumers and Online Privacy

Webster’s dictionary defines privacy, as something that is “not open” or “not intended for the public”, “confidential” or “not publicly or generally known.” There are also other, more commonly understood definitions of privacy, such as the ability of an individual or group to seclude information about themselves from others. The boundaries and content of what is considered private differs among cultures, religious communities, and generations.

There is no doubt that the Internet has added a new dimension to all our private lives. The online world we now live in presents new challenges to the privacy of kids and teens, parents, and older adults. For all consumers, it is important to have a greater awareness and understanding of how to protect your personal privacy in the online world.

Here are some general tips for how you can help protect your privacy online:

• Read the privacy policies for all of the websites you visit. Check to see how each website treats your personal information.

• Check the privacy preferences on the websites you use – social networking, retail, etc. – and change your settings to make sure you are comfortable with the type of information collected and the length of time the information is retained.

• Delete the cookies saved in your computer on a regular basis. This will help to clear your Internet search history – the history of the sites you have visited on the Internet –and provide less information to websites that track this information.

• Be careful how much personal information you put on the Web.

• Always make sure you are on a secure site when providing credit card information (“s” appears either before or after “http:” in window). Do not respond to unsolicited requests for financial information and never provide personal financial data online, such as a social security number, bank account number, etc.

• Make sure the website to which you are giving information is from a reputable organization.

• Designate one credit card for online shopping to make it easier to track your online purchases.

• Keep your computer security software up-to-date.

• Guard your personal information online. It is often difficult to know exactly who you are communicating with online and sharing personal information with someone you don’t really know is a privacy risk.

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