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Privacy and the Internet Essay

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Privacy and the Internet


The Internet provides a wealth of sources for information, products, and services of all types, making it a convenient place for consumers to research topics and make purchases. Although Internet users know that some personal data will be required to make a purchase, they are often unaware of the personal data that can be collected without their knowledge by simply visiting a Web page or reading e-mail. This paper addresses some of the ways unauthorized personal information has been and is being collected and steps that can be taken to prevent or avoid this collection.

To make an online purchase, an Internet user must provide a certain amount of personal information to the vendor. This information usually includes the user's name, address, telephone number, e-mail address, and credit card data. There have been many reported cases of security failures at online vendors of products and services. Because of this publicity, most Internet users are aware that there is a potential for the information they provide to be exposed to the world whether by human error, careless security practices by a vendor, or a successful attack by a hacker. However, most users are not aware of the amount of personal information that can be collected without their consent when they do such ordinary things as visiting a Web page, opening a document, or reading an e-mail message.

How can personal information be collected without the user's knowledge? Information about an Internet user can be collected in many ways, including the underlying protocol of the Web, “cookies”, banner advertisements,"Web bugs", and hi-tech "toys". A user may also provide information to an online vendor to reduce annoyances. Almost every ...


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... Clients Susceptible to 'Wire-Tapping'. February 5, 2001. www.internetnews.com/dev-news/article/0,,10_579871,00.html. Accessed: October 30, 2001.

Lemos, Robert. ZDNet News. No easy way to exterminate 'Web bugs'. August 31, 2000. techupdate.zdnet.com/techupdate/stories/main/0,14179,2622610,00.html Accessed: October 30, 2001.

Sullivan, Jennifer and Jones, Christopher. Wired News. How Much Is Your Playlist Worth? November 3, 1999. http://www.wired.com/news/technology/0,1282,32258,00.html. Accessed: October 31, 2001.

Vendor sites

Intelytics products. www.intelytics.com. Updated: Unknown. Accessed: October 10, 2001,

X10 pop-up. www.x10.com/x10ads1.htm. Updated: Unknown. Accessed: October 9, 2001.

Netscape. Persistent Client State - HTTP Cookies. home.netscape.com/newsref/std/cookie_spec.html. Updated: 1999. Accessed: October 30, 2001.


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