What is it?
Privacy is an increasingly controversial topic on the internet. Many websites collect information about the people who visit them, often for legitimate purposes. But recent news reports have demonstrated people's fear that their privacy online is being compromised, as some websites have inadvertently led users to expose private information for public view. The end result of this can range from simple embarrassment to identify theft, where a person's private information is sufficiently exposed so that it is possible to use it to fake their identity for personal gain.
How does it work?
Many websites attach small pieces of software code called 'cookies' to browsers to track their activities. These are often used to identify when a user returns to the site, but some cookies are considered to be malicious in their intent by tracking more activity. Many social media websites such as Facebook rely on users sharing personal information, but this can generally be controlled by the user through the site's privacy settings.
Why is privacy useful?
Identify theft is a very real problem that can cost individuals thousands of dollars through pilfered bank accounts, and can take months to set right once realised. Insufficient use of privacy controls can also lead to personal information being made visible to internet users at large, rather than to just friends and family. It is important that you learn about the privacy settings of the software that your children are using so they are set appropriately and do not allow the sharing of personal information with strangers. It is also important to ensure that Wi-Fi networks are secured with a password, and that your computer has up-to-date antivirus software to protect against malicious cookies and other threats to privacy. Web browsers also have settings for deleting cookies.