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How to Control Your Online Privacy with Software

Cookies can be good for you. No, really!

Many people concerned about online security worry about cookies, but the truth is, it’s not the cookies that are the issue. Cookies are not executable that means they don’t run programs so they can’t carry viruses or change how your computer works. They are just tiny files that store information to make your site browsing experience better. This includes information about your preferences on particular sites, the details you need to login or comment, what’s in your shopping basket and so on.

The real problems for internet users are not cookies, but spyware, viruses and, for some, invasive advertising and marketing.

Spyware can harvest sensitive information about your internet use, such as passwords. Viruses can harm your computer by running malicious programs and ads, and well, we all know what they do. The truth is that blocking cookies WON’T protect you from the effects of spyware and viruses, but WILL break websites, so blocking all cookies isn’t a great idea. A better option for making web surfing both safe and user friendly is to use anti-spyware and anti-virus software.

There are literally dozens of these programs (from manufacturers such as Norton, McAfee, Trend Micro, Kaspersky, AVG, Avast!, Comodo, and more) which can:

  • Identify potential spammers and malicious software based on a list
  • Detect and remove adware
  • Detect and remove spyware
  • Detect and remove malware
  • Detect and remove viruses

 

These programs will identify and eliminate threats to your privacy, whether they use cookies or not. Most of them work by scanning your system, identifying potential problems and quarantining or deleting spyware, malware and adware. You can schedule regular scans and there are regular software updates to ensure that you are protected as new viruses are invented.

And then there are the ads. While ads have their place, because they help keep the internet free, not everyone wants to see ads targeted to their particular location or see them at all. Blocking cookies will stop the targeting, but it won’t eliminate the ads. For that, you need software and many of those anti-spyware and anti-virus software suites have built in tools to block ads.

And there’s one more thing to think about if you’re worried about privacy. Many social media sites use targeting as a way of serving up ads to its users. That means as well as protecting your privacy with software, you also need to review your social media privacy settings. A good place to check exactly what information sites hold and what they are doing with your information is Stay Safe Online. Check it out. You might be surprised at what you are allowing.