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Corporations like to know as much as they can about their customers. Unfortunately, the Internet has made data collection just a little too easy. When you use your browser to view Web pages, or download music files, there's a good chance that some corporation somewhere is watching over your shoulder.

Corporate collection of
personal data

You don't even have to buy anything over the Internet to get caught up in the corporate data collection game. Your browser, its plug-ins and other software programs on your computer make you an unwitting player. Simply viewing a Web page can get you involved.

A major culprit is spyware, including the programs Radiate and Aureate. One of these might be operating on your computer right now.

A program that was in the spotlight a few years ago is RealJukeBox from RealNetworks. An early version sent details of users' music downloads back to head office through the user's Internet connection. Not surprisingly, many people resented this, and RealNetworks disabled the feature.

The controversy resurfaced when Steve Gibson of Gibson Research discovered that another RealNetworks program, RealDownload, was sending his name and email address too. If you're up for the technical details, they're here.

Doubleclick is an agency supplying targeted banner ads to sites. It uses cookies, and because it runs the advertising on a very large number of sites, it collects a lot of data and gets accurate profiles of users.

Doubleclick then decided to go one step further and tie in the data with users' real names and addresses from shopping transactions - but finally backed down.

Corporations like to collect statistics from friendly sites that aren't their own. To do this they ask the site webmaster to plant Web bugs on the pages. These are innocuous files, often tiny graphics, but they're held on the server of the corporation rather than the site. So each time a page containing a bug is accessed, the corporation gets an entry on its server logs showing the visitor's IP address. They can be used in HTML emails too.


Your intimate friend, the network manager

Monitoring by authorities

Email - as private as a postcard

Links to other privacy sites

Personal data
Mobile phones


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