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Protecting Your Privacy

Posted by Jim Berg Team on Saturday, March 3rd, 2012 at 3:25pm.

Protect Your Passwords, Accounts, Searches and Emails

        Search engines make life easier. We've become so accustom to simply typing in a few words and hitting "search" that we don't even realize how much data is being generated with every click…or what that data says about us. Last week, however, this topic was forced front and center.   

What Happened Last Week?

Google's new privacy policy went into effect last week. Based on the new policy, all data collected about you - including search queries, sites visited, age, gender and location - will be gathered and assigned to your online identity represented by your Gmail, Google Plus, and YouTube accounts.   

Prior to that, information about your Google searches and sites visited was kept separate from Google's other products. The wall between those products has now been removed and more of your information than ever is potentially floating around in cyberspace.   

All of this provides a good reason to revisit your privacy settings and your own habits when searching information or conducting business online.   

Why Does It Matter?

The history stored in a browser can contain sensitive information, such as your phone number, account numbers, passwords, emails, and so on.   

In addition, your search queries can also reveal information about you, including private information like health concerns. In fact, privacy experts have raised concerns about that type of information being gathered in the event that it may be used when you apply for credit, a new job, car or life insurance, and even health care coverage.   

Finally, if you work in a business where you help people with private financial matters (such as purchasing a home, improving their credit score, and so on), the need for privacy is even greater.   

The Good News Is…

The first piece of good news is that major companies such as Microsoft, Google, and AOL recently agreed to install a do-not-track button in Web browsers to make sure that you can browse the Internet with more privacy. But it'll take a while before this button actually arrives in a browser near you.   

The second piece of good news is that you already have a simple step that you can use in the meantime to help keep sensitive information from being recorded.   

What can you do now?  Tell Your Clients, Business Partners, and Friends…

Most browsers already feature a privacy setting that can be turned on. When you activate the private browsing setting, the actions you take are kept private - which means caches, browser history, forms, passwords and other temporary files are not permanently recorded. Instead, once the window is closed, the data is erased. So you can feel more comfortable working online without worrying that bank balances, emails, or passwords are being captured.   This is especially important if you use a shared computer in a business setting or a public computer (such as a computer at a public library or Internet café).   

PCWorld recently provided the following quick instructions for setting your browser to privacy mode:   

  • Internet Explorer 9: Ctrl-Shift-P       
  • Chrome: Ctrl-Shift-N       
  • Firefox: Ctrl-Shift-P       
  • Safari: Go to the "Edit" menu and choose "Private Browsing"       

But Don't Forget!

Even if you use a privacy setting, you'll need to quit a browser when you're done. That's because the "back" button still works in privacy mode, so someone else could easily click back to previously viewed pages, such as an email or financial account if you step away.   

Finally, remind your clients and friends that social media sites may ask for a lot of information, but that doesn't mean you should share it. Phone numbers, your full date of birth, and social security numbers should never be part of your profile.   

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