Privacy Protection and Anonymous Web Browsing?

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Infopackets Reader Dorothy L. writes:

" Hi Dennis,

I am very interested in the PopUp Stopper Professional program, but would first like to ask you a question regarding some despicable emails I've recently been receiving. I am a senior citizen and a grandmother, and would like to eliminate male-oriented offers before I turn 81. Is this possible to do? I have been a long-time subscriber to Smart Computing and the earlier PC Novice... I wish I had known about you earlier! I just happened upon it. Terrific stuff!!"

Dorothy emailed me again today:

" In checking my e-mail this a.m., only to find that I have received another male-oriented offer... this time, my real name was used in the subject of the email. How did this happen? In order to stop this intrusive spam, I have decided to change my email address. But that means I'll have to notify dozens of friends and family of the change, and I don't really want to do that. As mentioned in a prior message to you, I am an 80 year-old widow, living alone, and it is frightening that someone / some company would know my name. I would appreciate any suggestions you may have. I really do not want to change my email address unless I have to. "

My response:

With all the unsolicited email ("spam") and email viruses hitting hard as of late, it makes me wonder if electronic mail will continue to exist in the very near future. PopUp ads are another problem altogether, and I'll explain more about that a little further down the page.

With respect to Dorothy's email problem --

There's a very good chance that her real name was obtained via a special offer / subscription service web site. During a signup process, many "free service" web sites (such as Yahoo and Hotmail email) will checkmark (opt in) a name and email address to be included with a "special partner offer". It is the responsibility of the user to uncheck (opt out) of these offers during a signup, otherwise, the name remains opted in. The problem is that many users don't see the "special offers" and end up getting spammed to death with "offers".

Quite often, names are sold or traded for the purpose of additional email marketing. A single name collected through a single offer can often end up on multiple mailing lists... and I'm guessing that's how Dorothy's name was captured and abused by unscrupulous marketers.

Coping with Unsolicited Emails

It is almost pointless to unsubscribe from each "offer" or spam email, simply because there is no guarantee that a spammer will honor the request -- not to mention that the same name may continue to exist on other lists.

What to do?

As Dorothy suggested, signing up for another email address sounds like a very plausible idea. Unfortunately, the downside is that she has to notify her email contacts of the change. There's a good chance that changing email addresses will stop unsolicited emails for a little while, but there is no guarantee that the new email address will remain spam-free... and chances are, it will not. That's why it's important to cope with the problem, rather than trying to find a short-term solution.

Email Filtering software is certainly one way to deal with offending emails. There are a few mentionable filtering programs on the 'net, and one piece of software I've found particularly useful is called MailWasher Pro. I use it to automatically mark and delete all bogus emails before any of it has a chance to download to my computer -- which is about 200 or more a day on average.

I've reviewed MailWasher Pro in the Gazette before, and you can read more about its features here:

MailWasher Pro Review

Coping with multiple forms of PopUp ads

When someone mentions the word "PopUp" to me, I think of either:

  1. Web site popup advertisements, or
  2. Messenger popups: affect Windows NT, 2000, and XP machines and can appear several times a minute -- even if you are not using a web Browser to browse a web site, or
  3. Spyware popup advertisements: which can appear even if you're not connected to the Internet.

I have yet to come across a single software solution which can manage all scenarios at once, which is why I use PopUp Stopper Pro and Spy Sweeper to do the job.

For the past two years, I've been using a program called PopUp Stopper on all of my machines and it does an excellent job of squashing all web site popups -- plus the Pro version of PopUp Stopper handles Messenger popups as well. PopUp Stopper Pro also works with a large number of web browsers, which makes it the perfect choice for many users.

More details about PopUp Stopper Pro here:

PopUp Stopper Pro Review

Spyware popups are a completely different breed of animal and require much more attention, since the category of Spyware is so broad. To combat Spyware popups, I use a program called Spy Sweeper; it sits quietly in my system tray and stops offending software before it has a chance to install on my machine. In fact, many users have told me that they use the subscription version of Spy Sweeper coupled with other Spyware removal programs (such as AdAware and Spybot S&D) in tandem in order increase their chance of finding and removing traces of Spyware.

More about Spy Sweeper here:

Spy Sweeper Review

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