BUSINESSWEEK ONLINE : APRIL 5, 1999 ISSUE
SPECIAL REPORT

How the Internet Got Your Number


Under the banner of better service, companies want to profile you, then sell you things--or sell your profile. Here's what companies see and how you can hide:

VISITING A WEB SITE
Just by viewing a page, you reveal your Internet address, browser type, operating system, and what page you clicked from.

TIP: Look for seals from TRUSTe and BBBOnLine. Read privacy statements. Be wary of registrations and surveys.


MILKING ''COOKIES''
Most busy Web sites prompt your browser to create a tracking file on your hard disk called a ''cookie.'' It identifies you to the Web site each time you return.

TIP: If there's no benefit to being tracked, click on preference menu and block cookies.


GETTING TRIANGULATED
Just by getting your horoscope at a site, you give up your birthdate and maybe your Zip Code. Public records can reveal your income and race.

TIP: Use pseudonyms. When browsing under your real name, avoid chat rooms.


WHO ELSE IS WATCHING
Advertisers on sites can also place cookies, which their clients may access. All across the Web, eyes you can't see may study your ''clickstream.''

TIP: Software shields can make you anonymous. Check out Anonymizer.com.


THE FULL MONTY
Ever buy a book at Amazon.com? If so, it's got your name, address, Zip Code, and credit-card number, for starters. If the books are gifts, they know your pals, too.

TIP: New privacy tools are coming. Watch for P3P, digitalme by Novell, and Crowds.


DATA: ELECTRONIC FRONTIER FOUNDATION


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