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Everything we do on the Internet leaves a record somewhere, from sending email to browsing your favourite music site.

You can't stop these records being created or stop people in authority looking at them, but you can take precautions to reduce their value and stop casual snoopers.

How much does your Internet Service Provider know about you?

Your ISP has plenty of information about you, but can't be bothered to look at it.

All your Internet activity is logged by your Internet Service Provider. They have a record of every page you visit, how long you spend there and what downloads you make. Your email activity is logged too and the addresses you correspond with are recorded. All your incoming mail may be backed-up - copied for security reasons and stored elsewhere.

The amount of data generated by all this logging is horrendous, and that's a very positive side to the story. There's so much data that your ISP can't afford to investigate it all. In fact very few bother to look at the data. Many erase it soon after it's created, because it's too expensive to store and they can't make money from it.

Also most ISPs are very aware of privacy, and they don't want to look in detail at what you're doing on the Internet. It's not polite.

But in theory, if they're asked by the police or security services to log all your Internet activity, they have the capability to do so. It doesn't happen very often, because Internet Service Providers don't like becoming arms of the State, and the amounts of data are so great.

In most parts of the world, the law (and police) are some distance behind the Internet revolution. Eventually they will catch up, and privacy will then become more difficult.

Your intimate friend, the network manager

What every Web site can find out about you

Monitoring by authorities

Email - as private as a postcard

Personal data
Mobile phones


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