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The Legal Beagle’s favorite book and that of dog lovers everywhere is Every Dog’s Legal Guide: A Must Have Book for Your Owner by Mary Randolph (KF390.5 .D6 R36 2005). His favorite movie is about the crime fighting pooch, Underdog! His current hero is Uno, the beagle who won Best in Show at the...

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Online Privacy Tools

Posted by Library Blog on 10/08/2014 at 09:42 AM

When you use the Internet do you think about how many electronic eyes are watching? Have you thought about how to protect your own and your clients’ information?

The easiest place to start is to limit how much information is collected when you search the Internet.  Search engines like DuckDuckGo and ixquick do not collect or share your personal information. They accomplish this by not capturing your IP address, not using cookies, and not recording your search.

Also useful is the ability to force websites to use the encrypted web protocol, HTTPS. HTTPS Everywhere, a browser add-on available for Chrome, Firefox, Opera, and Firefox for Android lets you do this whenever HTTPS is an available option. While not always a guarantee that the page is secure, you can frequently increase the security of your communications using this add-on. Always remember to check for the lock in the browser bar even when using HTTPS Everywhere to verify that the page is secure.

Similarly, by using add-ons that block ad software and online tracking cookies you will reduce the clutter on your screen and increase your privacy protection. You may even speed up your searches! Privacy Badger and AdBlock Edge, available for Firefox, Chrome, and Safari are two options that come well recommended.

If you love your IM and Chat, protect them. Your IM conversations can be conducted in a secure environment by using programs like Pidgin for Windows or Adium for Mac OS. Likewise a program like Cryptocat, available for Chrome, Firefox, Opera, Safari, OS X, and iPhone, will allow you to conduct your Chat sessions with security. If you use Facebook Messenger, Cryptocat is a must.

Finally, email should never be considered secure unless it is encrypted. Your message travels through an untold number of servers before reaching its recipient. Not only could it be intercepted anywhere along the way by someone with criminal intent, but it is subject to disclosure to legal authorities. As a user, your first rule must always be to use caution when sending information via email. If you find you absolutely must sent sensitive information via email, invest in the best encryption software available at that time. Two of the newer free players in this field are ProtonMail and Virtru. One is an email service and the other a browser extension that works with a variety of existing web-based email programs.

Regardless of the route you take, remember that “security” is relative. For a quick take on the subject checkout this entry on the New York Times’ Bits blog.

Good luck and be safe out there.