Click Here for Beginners Guide to the Internet Course Index

Dave's Beginners Guide to the Internet

Anonymity and Privacy

Anonymity and privacy on the Internet come hand in hand. In general, people on the Internet do not know anything more about you than you offer to tell them.

If you e-mail someone, they may be able to see your first and last name, depending on how you set up your e-mail account. You may wish to check those setting if you don't want people to know your full name.

Before you submit data to enter a contest online or for a free offer, check for a site privacy policy. (You can see the privacy policy here if you'd like.) Some sites will sell your e-mail address and/or mailing address to direct marketers. Most privacy policies will tell you what practices a web site will follow with your personal information. If you have a suspicion about a web site, don't give them your information.

When you surf the web or chat the only thing visible to other users that can identify you in remote circumstances is your IP address. This number, which either changes every time you log on (dynamic IP address) or stays the same every time you log on (static IP address) allows data to be transferred to and from your computer and other computers on the Internet.

An IP address is kind of like a phone number. Say you ordered pizza, you'd have to tell them where you lived in order for it to be delivered. An IP address is just like your delivery address for the Internet. It lets you get what you want while you are online.

While the common person cannot figure out who you are from an IP address, government agencies like the FBI and Secret Service in the U.S. can contact your internet service provider (ISP) if you broke the law to figure out who was using a certain IP address when a crime occurred online. (Cracking [breaking into someone else's computer or server illegally] and piracy can be tracked, so don't do these things and other things that can get you in trouble unless you really like prison food!)

Caution: Be careful when reading e-mail. Most email that looks like its from a bank, credit card company, mortgage company, eBay, PayPal, etc, is actually a criminal trying to rip you off or steal your info.

To stay safe, NEVER click links in an e-mail message that takes you to a page that asks for ANY INFORMATION from you. Instead, go directly to the site. For example, if you want to check on your eBay account, open your web brower and type If you'd like to learn more about protecting yourself from this crime, go to Google and search for "phishing."

To stay on the safe side, don't give out information to those that you don't trust. And never give out your password to anyone. Remember to check out privacy policies, and remember you can be held accountable for any crimes you commit.

Next Chapter: Safety Issues