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Who's Watching You? Protecting Your Privacy On The Internet

It might be ... to learn, but more often than not, someone is watching what you're doing on-line. I'm not talking about your kids (or parents) looking over your shoulder as you surf; I'm talkin

It might be surprising to learn, but more often than not, someone is watching what you're doing on-line. I'm not talking about your kids (or parents) looking over your shoulder as you surf; I'm talking about good old Corporate America. Not only are you being "tracked" on the Web, you're also giving out personal information, probably without even knowing it.

Do you really want anyone to know where you're going on-line & what types of websites you frequent? Are you real big on giving companies you've never heard of your name, address, e-mail and a boatload of other information? I didn't think so. Here's what you do about it:

There are two parts to this topic. 1. Keeping yourself from being tracked on the Internet, and 2. Keeping your computer from giving out information when you don't want it to.

Part One

On the Internet, companies use little files called cookies (stored in the "Temporary Internet Files" folder) to track your web activity. They also have access to your "History" folder, which keeps a log of all the sites you've visited. To keep yourself anonymous on the web you should regularly clean the "History" and "Temporary Internet Files" folders.

To delete files from your "History" folder, you will need to do the following:
Open your web browser (this only works with MSIE 4+).
On the top toolbar, select the "history" icon.
A screen should appear on the left hand side of the browser. Once inside that screen, you can delete any items you find.
That's it. Now, step two...

To delete files/cookies from your "Temporary Internet Files" folder, you will need to do the following:

Open "Windows Explorer". On the left hand side of the screen, select c:/ then "Windows", then (in the windows folder) find "Temporary Internet Files".
Double-click the "Temporary Internet Files" folder to open it in the right-hand side of the screen.
Once the folder opens, you can go ahead and delete what you find there except for a file called "index.dat" (you need that one. everything else is garbage). But only the files in the "Temporary Internet Files" folder. DO NOT Delete any other files or folders. You may seriously harm your computer.
Done? Good. Your Internet trail is gone.

If you're using a different browser than MSIE, use the help option to find out if history & temporary files are available and how to access them.

If you're uncomfortable with the idea of deleting these files manually, you can download several freeware programs from that will do it for you. Just search for "disk space" in the search box at the top of the page.

Part Two

Computers with Microsoft Internet Explorer come with a feature called "Auto Complete". It will automatically store passwords, web addresses, and other personal information. If you do not want your computer to do this you will need to turn the feature off.

Here's how:

Open the MSIE browser to any web page.
On the top toolbar, go to "Tools", then "Internet Options"
Once in the "Internet Options" menu, find and select the "Content" tab.
Under the "Personal Information" heading, select the "AutoComplete" button.

Make sure the following boxes are UNCHECKED:
Web Addresses
User names and passwords on forms

Select "OK".

You might also want to use the "Clear AutoComplete History" option as well.

As a general rule, there are a lot of good things to be found in the "Internet Options" menu. You might want to poke around and learn more about what you can do there.

If you use MSIE or Netscape, you can learn more about your Browser's security features here:

IncidentallyFree Web Content, this article is by no means the end all of Internet privacy. You might wish to check out the projectGUARDIAN pages at for more information.

Article Tags: Temporary Internet Files, Internet Files Folder, Personal Information, Temporary Internet, Internet Files, Files Folder, Internet Options

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William Milham is an Internet Professional with more than a decade of experience on the WWW. For more articles and eBooks written by Mr. Milham, please visit and click on the "Publications" link.

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