Privacy and the Internet Essay

3808 Words 16 Pages
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
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The X10 company is aware that people can become annoyed when the same popup ad keeps appearing. Some of the ads have a "Click here to disable this ad" button that takes the user to an X10 page and promises not to show the ad again for 30 days. (X10 popup, October 2001.) This requires that a “cookie” (a small text file recognized by a Web server) be installed on the user’s computer. A small piece of information has been collected about the user: this computer has seen an X10 ad because the usual link to the popup inhibitor page is via an ad for some X10 product. The X10 site also knows the IP address, operating system, and browser version of that computer. If a user visits the popup inhibitor page directly by using the URL in the bibliography, the same information will be collected. This is covert data collection because the user did not intend to give information but simply wanted to suppress an annoyance.

How does a server know so much about a user’s computer? The protocol of the Web requires that a certain amount of information be exchanged between a user’s Web browser and the Web server with which it is communicating. The server needs to know the type and version of the browser because different versions have different capabilities, such as support for Java or on-line forms. The Web server knows the page from which the user came and the page to which the user goes because that information is part of the environment shared by the Web server and

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