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29th June, 2013 | Articles |

Covering you Online Tracks

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The digital world allows for very few secrets, with companies collecting, collating and analysing user data for profit and governments doing the same in the name of national security. According to experts and privacy advocates, most users are not even aware of being tracked. For this reason, these experts suggest that new policies and laws limiting data collection, increasing transparency and generally protect everyone's privacy are desperately needed.

It appears that there is very little - or, to be more precise, nothing - can be done by the average user to prevent this kind of data mining. Well, thre is, but it would involve giving up all of today's conveniences - staying offline, not using mobile phones or credit cards, and so on. This is hardly a viable option for anyone. There are, however, a few ways of minimalising your digital tracks. Here are some of them.

Smart Phones

The first thing users can do is to forget about smart phones. Using a fairly low-tech phone that allows users to make calls, send texts and maybe has a camera is a lot safer than using an Internet-enabled, 'mini-computer' phone that essentially acts as a perfect tracking device.

E-Mail

Using the same e-mail address - associated with the user's real name and other contact/ personal details - across a variety of sites allows analytic and marketing companies to easily track an individual's identity. It is far better to use several different e-mail addresses - with different user details - to obscure your online activities.

Cookies

Every time a person accesses the Internet, data brokers, ad networks and other companies use bits of code, cookies and a variety of other techniques to track this user's Internet movements. Turning on 'private browsing' and using cookie blockers goes a long way towards preventing the world and his brother tracking your movements.

Browsers

Using different browsers also assists in the effort to frustrate tracking attempts. Users could, for example, use Safari for emails, Chrome for social networking and Firefox for shopping and/ or general browsing.

Finally, when out shopping, using a credit, debit or loyalty card will invariably result in data being stored, analysed and tracked. Paying for as many purchases as possible in cash will quickly and easily solve this problem.

In essence, while there is no official law to stop tracking of consumers' movements, it is up to each individual to keep their personal information as safe as possible. Keeping digital tracks at a minimum is a step forward in this effort.

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