Internet privacy - protect your online privacy

In the past year, Richard Smith, Phar Lap Software CEO turned security guru, has uncovered what appear to be privacy breaches in the practices of RealNetworks, Amazon and DoubleClick. Last September, Smith retired from Phar Lap to focus on Net security and privacy issues. PC World spoke to Smith to uncover his views on Internet privacy, where it is going, and what you can do to protect yourself.

PCW: You've become the unofficial guru of Internet security. How did this happen?

Smith: My interest in privacy really started with the flap about the Pentium III serial number [in January 1999]. I ended up looking at the use of Ethernet address tracking numbers and was surprised at how often they were being used as GUIDs. They're almost like a Social Security number for your computer. The number itself doesn't say who you are, but the fact that it goes into databases all over the Web is depressing.

PCW: What, in your opinion, is the biggest threat to consumers on the Net?

Smith: As you surf the Web, sites across the board are watching what you do, creating profiles, learning all about you. I'm concerned that all of this data is going to be combined in one big database . . . The biggest problem is that a lot of tracking is not disclosed . . . Companies like DoubleClick . . . [are] getting a lot of information that's frankly none of their business.

PCW: What advice would you give wary Netizens today?

Smith: The main thing is: computers, like elephants, never forget. Be careful what information you provide Web sites . . . If you're registering your toaster, there's no need to tell them your yearly income. Be careful what you say in newsgroups. You can write something today, and three years later really regret it. Remember, the Net is still new. It's like a 12-year-old kid, still trying to find its way. A lot of issues - like hacking, privacy, and security - will get worked out over the next five years

Join the newsletter!

Or

Sign up to gain exclusive access to email subscriptions, event invitations, competitions, giveaways, and much more.

Membership is free, and your security and privacy remain protected. View our privacy policy before signing up.

Error: Please check your email address.
Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Daniel Tynan

PC World
Show Comments

Cool Tech

Bang and Olufsen Beosound Stage - Dolby Atmos Soundbar

Learn more >

Toys for Boys

Nakamichi Delta 100 3-Way Hi Fi Speaker System

Learn more >

ASUS ROG, ACRONYM partner for Special Edition Zephyrus G14

Learn more >

Sony WF-1000XM3 Wireless Noise Cancelling Headphones

Learn more >

Family Friendly

Mario Kart Live: Home Circuit for Nintendo Switch

Learn more >

Philips Sonicare Diamond Clean 9000 Toothbrush

Learn more >

Stocking Stuffer

Teac 7 inch Swivel Screen Portable DVD Player

Learn more >

SunnyBunny Snowflakes 20 LED Solar Powered Fairy String

Learn more >

Christmas Gift Guide

Click for more ›

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Tom Pope

Dynabook Portégé X30L-G

Ultimately this laptop has achieved everything I would hope for in a laptop for work, while fitting that into a form factor and weight that is remarkable.

Tom Sellers

MSI P65

This smart laptop was enjoyable to use and great to work on – creating content was super simple.

Lolita Wang

MSI GT76

It really doesn’t get more “gaming laptop” than this.

Jack Jeffries

MSI GS75

As the Maserati or BMW of laptops, it would fit perfectly in the hands of a professional needing firepower under the hood, sophistication and class on the surface, and gaming prowess (sports mode if you will) in between.

Taylor Carr

MSI PS63

The MSI PS63 is an amazing laptop and I would definitely consider buying one in the future.

Christopher Low

Brother RJ-4230B

This small mobile printer is exactly what I need for invoicing and other jobs such as sending fellow tradesman details or step-by-step instructions that I can easily print off from my phone or the Web.

Featured Content

Product Launch Showcase

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?