Privacy on the internet
Privacy on the internet (by Dejan Franković, 1, G12)
Otherwise known as "Internet privacy"
Internet privacy is a term that refers to privacy when surfing the Internet, i.e. the control of personal, private information and access to it. Computer specialists agree that it is impossible to achive true privacy on the internet.
Privacy - in informational sense: the right of an individual to give, restrict or limit access to cerain information about him to everyone else. Oxford wordpower dictionary for learners of English: - the state of being alone and not watched or dsturbed by other people - the state of being free from the attention of the public
Usualy, when talking about privacy, the word anonymity is used as a synonym. Anonymity - the situation where a person's name is not known
Degree of privacy
We could divide privacy into three segments:
No anonymity - personal information is freely given to anyone who asks
Standard anonymity - usual level of privacy; user controls his privacy through careful exposure of personal information, avoiding spyware, basic protection
Total anonymity - highest degree of privacy where user attempts to hide every possible information about himself, even IP adress; such measures are usualy used by individuals with dishonourable intentions
Holes in internet privacy
In internet privacy there are many "holes" or, better to say, many risks to it. They can be exploited for research (e.g. research about visitors of certain web page), advertising (or simply put - SPAM) and stealing information (e.g. credit card numbers, passwords, etc.).
The most famous of privacy risks, cookies are usualy used for internal site operations. They are inexpendable when working with sessions and enabling user access to, otherwise restricted, parts of some web page. Initialy, they are designed to work only with the web page that created them, but skilled programers are able to go around this restriction. While being mostly harmless and subtle (users are rarely aware of the usage of cookies), many users can limit cookie creation on their computer. Every browser enables some kind of cookie control (yes, even Internet Explorer has this option). There are also special applications for cookie-control.
Profiling (or "tracking") is a process of gathering information about individual internet user and his browsing habits. This is commonly used for market analysis and research on broswing habits of users. While these profiles aren't necessarily connected to individual persons, they present a big privacy intrusion if they are.
Every time an user connects with an computer to the internet, or any other network, he is marked with an IP address (Internet protocol address). This is fundamental for any data flow over the network. IP address serves the web pages in the same way as street address serve the mail deliverer. If information has to go from point A to point B (A and B can be either servers or personal computers) it needs address from where to start and where to go. This is done using the IP address. Normal computer users are rarely concerned with availability of their IP addresses, but the IP addresses do present a privacy risk. From IP address you can read in what country and through which ISP specific user is connected. There are ways to prevent web sites from accessing your IP address directly. This is done by using proxy servers. They are basicly internet servers that act as intermediate between websites and users. This way, the website sees the proxies IP instead of users IP.
ISP (Internet service provider) is a company that enables its clients to connect to the internet and use internet services. Because of that, it has the ability to track every client and collect information about everyone who connects through their server. This is potentialy a big privacy risk, since it is possible to do so without notifying the client.
Some applications are programmed to create logs of internet usage, or browsing habits. If someone gets access to these logs, privacy of the user is compromised.
Other privacy risks
Spyware - software with primary intention of collecting personal information about user; usualy it is very annoying, but rarely poses a serious threat.
Social Engineering - a process of gathering personal information through psychical manipulation and trickery.
Malicious proxy servers - hoax proxy server; since you connect to it directly, it has access to your IP address.