How to Muddy Your Tracks on the Internet

New York Times

By KATE MURPHY

Published: May 2, 2012

 

Legal and technology researchers estimate that it would take about a month for Internet users to read the privacy policies of all the Web sites they visit in a year. So in the interest of time, here is the deal: You know that dream where you suddenly realize you’re stark naked? You’re living it whenever you open your browser.

There are no secrets online. That emotional e-mail you sent to your ex, the illness you searched for in a fit of hypochondria, those hours spent watching kitten videos (you can take that as a euphemism if the kitten fits) — can all be gathered to create a defining profile of you.

Your information can then be stored, analyzed, indexed and sold as a commodity to data brokers who in turn might sell it to advertisers, employers, health insurers or credit rating agencies.

And while it’s probably impossible to cloak your online activities fully, you can take steps to do the technological equivalent of throwing on a pair of boxers and a T-shirt. Some of these measures are quite easy and many are free. Of course, the more effort and money you expend, the more concealed you are. The trick is to find the right balance between cost, convenience and privacy.

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