Ever wonder why ads you see while browsing the web are for items you recently looked at?  Ever had an account hijacked by spammers?  Does fear of identity theft prevent you from using the web’s most powerful features or getting bargains online?  Techsnoop is here to help with a little education and ammunition.

Computers are tracked by IP (internet protocol) addresses which are generated by your computer or assigned by you internet provider (ISP).  This address can give general location information and more specific browsing history to those with access.  Who has access?  Your ISP, the government, marketers and even hackers.

Unless you take specific steps to block tracking, assume everything you do and say online is public.  Yes, Facebook, Twitter, Google and other sites have privacy policies but these policies do not protect you from marketing and tracking companies who profit from your browsing activity statistics or from hackers.

Using strong passwords, a great firewall and antivirus and regularly changing passwords is a great way to block hackers.  But what about marketing and tracking companies?  Blocking this activity will require additional steps to secure your privacy.

Turn off cookies in your computer to keep sites from tracking you.  This step also clears out any “keep me logged in” sites as they use cookies to do this.  Set your browser to clear your history on shutting down your computer.  Again, this has drawbacks if you visit the same sites daily.  Also turn off auto-complete for logging in on sites, especially if you are using a shared or public computer.  All settings are in your browser settings or options.

Use a proxy server service which routes your browsing through anonymous servers so activity cannot be traced to your computer.  Proxy.org has a list of good ones or use a VPN (virtual private network) like Hotspot Shield which comes in a free or paid version.  Or use a browser plugin like Do Not Track.  which is compatible with all major browsers and notifies you if a site is trying to track you.  The option to allow becomes yours, giving you more complete control.

If you frequently surf on computers that are shared or public or use public Wi-Fi, you may want to use a software that is kept on a USB drive.  This means it is portable and can be used anywhere.

SurfEasy is a tiny flash drive for your USB port that plugs into your computer and launches a browser.  It is password protected and already configured for privacy.  A great option for the tech-impaired.  It costs $59.99 and will mask your IP address and use a proxy network.

If you need a free solution, use Tails, a software you can download on your own flash drive and run on any computer anywhere.

Which ever solution you choose, know your privacy options online to keep your information secure.  Happy Surfing!

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