Science and Technology : Your 'digital tattoo' may reveal too much

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Your 'digital tattoo' may reveal too much
By Sue McAllister
San Jose Mercury News

Every time you're online, marketers, game developers and search engines are trying to suck up as much information about you as they can. And they hope to use it to make lots of money off you someday.

But with data breaches and self-inflicted privacy gaffes — former Rep. Anthony Weiner, what were you thinking? — becoming more common, more people are fighting back against the invasiveness of some technologies, and are trying to wrangle their digital identities back under their control.

They're finding there are worthwhile steps to take, but no single solution can control the staggering amount of personal information out there on the Internet.

[...]

Tips on protecting privacy

Check sites like Spokeo, Intelius or U.S. Identify to see what information has been gathered about you through public sources. If you don't want all the information accessible, refer to the company's instructions on removing your name.

• Visit PrivacyChoice.org to see how to block online marketers from tracking your online activities.

• Don't do or post things online that you wouldn't do or say to someone in person.

• Be cautious about whom you befriend online.

• Think before posting photos on networking sites, and about whether you want to tag them with people's names. Your intent may be to keep them private, but they could eventually get into the hands of hackers or marketers.

• Set your Facebook privacy settings to Friends Only; recheck your privacy settings regularly, as defaults can change when Facebook introduces new features.

• Don't answer "get-to-know-you" question games on Facebook or elsewhere; your answers can provide fodder for database marketers, and you don't know how they ultimately will be used.

• Learn to use the privacy settings on your Internet browser.

• Use different passwords for your financial transactions and your social-networking sites.

• Familiarize yourself with resources like PrivacyChoice.org, the Privacy Rights Clearinghouse (www.privacyrights.org); and the Federal Trade Commission (www.ftc.gov/bcp/consumer.shtm; click on ID Theft, Privacy & Security).

— Sue McAllister
 

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