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How To Maintain Your Privacy Online

5 Rules To Maintain Your Privacy And Safety When Meeting People Online

By Robert Lee
Reviewer, The Choosiest Dating Service Directory

The Internet is ever growing. One survey says there kis now more than one billion websites.

More people online means more people to meet. Wherever you click to, you'll find a discussion board, a forum, and a poll to voice your opinion, something to join and be a part of. All this leads to interaction with others online. How can you maintain your privacy? How can you protect yourself from the "cyber stalkers" that can terrorize online buddies, email friends and dating service love interests?

Follow the  5 Rules For Online Safety and you will not easily fall victim to harassment online and "cyber stalkers".

Rule #1

Always use an anonymous web based email address!
E-mail services such as available at Hotmail, Yahoo, and others allow you to send and receive email without revealing any personal information. The email address that your Internet Service Provider (ISP) gave you, surprising enough, will send along with the email message headers plenty of personal information describing your location, your ISP, sometimes even your real name. Do you want this information going to somewhere you've just joined online or on a forum or discussion list where you just voiced your opinion? Are you ready to have your personal and private email address published on a web page for anyone to see and send to you email you aren't prepared for (spam)?

You can protect yourself by using free web based email service addresses for any program, club, dating service, newsletter, discussion list, forum or anything else that requires an email address from you. Of course, the beginnings of protecting yourself starts with signing up for an anonymous email service using your ISP given email address to begin with. Look for a service that provides forwarding of email messages to your ISP email address. This way, should you change ISP's you can change your forwarding address only, and not have to email everyone you know about your change of address! Google's Gmail service allows you to use this feature.

Rule #2

Know your Instant Messenger Service (IM).
Did you know that some versions of IM's will expose your Internet Protocol (IP) Address? These 10 to 12 digit numbers will reveal who your ISP is and what your location is. With "dial-up" Internet access, this is not too much of a threat, as you receive a different IP address every time you dial into the Internet. But with high speed access being more available, if you have this type of access you always have the same IP address. With just a couple of clicks and the right program, someone can find out your home address in under 15 seconds! Read the privacy information available on any IM service you are using and understand how to protect your IP address, your private email address and any other information that may be displayed to someone sending you a message. Never send or reply to a message from someone you don't know!

Rule #3

Never re-use user, account or nicknames!
Most services will ask for you a user name, nickname, account name or some other such identifier that you use to log in with along with your password that is revealed to other users. It is very important that with each and every service you sign up for you have a unique user name (identifier). If someone decides to give you too much attention online, or starts "cyber stalking" you, you should "move on" to the next service (after reporting them and closing your account, of course). But, if you use the same user or account name somewhere else, eventually they'll find you again! And again! And again!

Rule #4

Know the service you are using.
Almost every online service that asks for any type of personal information from you will have a posted privacy policy. Take the required time to read it. Make a copy of the email address you need to report someone that harasses you through that service. Save it with your user name and password information, wherever you write that down. If at any time you are uncomfortable about revealing private information about yourself, leave the form blank. If it is required information, contact the company and explain why you do not want to provide such information to them. Either you will learn more about their privacy policy directly from them or not receive a response at all. If you don't receive a response, consider it a blessing in disguise!

If you are using an online social service that allows you to post personal information in a blog or journal type format keep your account private so only those you allow can read what you post and see the pictures you upload. Allowing anyone online to view your posts removes all possibility of being a private person and opens you up to unwanted attention. As well, you should be aware that once you upload a picture of yourself anyone can copy it and use it even though it is illegal to do so without your permission.

Rule #5

What to do if you become the victim of a "cyber stalker".
Don't panic. Send an email to the service and report the person that is giving you unwarranted attention. Include details such as copies of emails and messages you have received, their user name and other information you know or have received. If the harassment has only been through electronic communication (online), close your account with the service where the harassment took place. Get a new account name and email address from your main ISP, or change ISP's. Cancel or close any web based email services and IM services that you have used to contact this person or that they have contacted you through.
If the harassment has been offline as well as online, contact your local police or authorities and make a formal complaint and statement against that person. Contact your local phone company and change your phone number.

Remember, the odds are in your favor that the people you meet are "normal" and will not harass you. But you can never be too safe and that is what we are trying to help you be, safe. Not paranoid, just safe.
These are the guidelines to follow to protect your privacy so that the unthinkable will not happen to you!

This article is © and Robert Lee. It is available for reproduction in any format and for posting on your web site or for use in your newsletter as long as you maintain this copyright notice and send an e-mail to reporting your use of this article prior to publication.

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