Computer privacy guide

The vast majority of computer users now store confidential information on their systems. Common examples include:

  • Personal Correspondence

  • Business Correspondence

  • E-mail

  • Curriculum Vitaes

  • Family photos

In addition, a certain degree of privacy is also expected when visiting online stores where personal information and email addresses are given online. A user would not normally wish to have private information like this passed on to similar online stores.

If you want to protect your privacy, you need to take adequate care when using your computer.

Protecting computer privacy

  •   Use passwords

    Most computer systems will allow users to set a password that must be entered when the computer is switched on; or must be entered when you leave your computer inactive for a set period of time. Activating this feature may be compared to locking a filing cabinet in order to keep your information safe

  •   Be careful of viruses

    Some viruses are designed to steal personal information from the computer they are installed on, for example, some viruses can steal passwords or even allow someone to remotely view your files. It is strongly recommended that all computer users take precautions against viruses, check out our section on Protecting Your Computer for further information.

  •   Be careful of "cookies"

    Cookies are small text files that some websites place in a special cookies folder on the main disk (hard drive) of your computer which contain some information about you. The text contents of the cookie can only be read by the website which placed it on your computer. One of the most common uses of cookies is to store your username and password so you don't have to enter them every time you enter a site.

    Cookies are not necessarily bad and many websites use them responsibly. Unfortunately, they can also be misused. For example some sites use cookies to collect information on your Internet browsing usage, which may then be made available to third parties for marketing purposes.

    For this reason it is advisable to either check what cookies are stored on your computer periodically or to set your browser to ask you whether or not you wish to accept cookies from websites as you are browsing. As the method of doing this varies significantly from browser to browser, it is recommended you consult your internet browser's documentation for further instructions.

  •   Read the privacy policies of websites before entering personal information

    Most sites in the EU and US that request personal information now provide a privacy policy stipulating how the information will be stored and whether it will be shared with third parties. By reading the privacy policy computer users can decide for themselves whether or not they are happy with the way their information will be treated once input.

  •   Do not send confidential information via e-mail

    It is recommended that computer users do not send sensitive content via email without first applying an extra layer of protection by encrypting the data. In order to do this, users must obtain an encryption program, this converts data into a secret code which provides security in the transmission of data by making the email’s contents unreadable without a password or key.