Many of my PC clients express concerns about Internet privacy. To some extent, this concern is justified, but in most cases is not consistent with the rest of their lives.

If privacy is your concern, instead of obsessing on the Internet, consider other aspects of your life. Most states require automobiles to carry a registration. Standard registrations have your name and address on them, which can be a great help to someone who just stole your car and knows you are not home. At every renewal, I take the new registration, scan it, delete the names and address (or rather clone some of the background to cover the information and still look official), and print out a copy. This seems to satisfy the requirements in California where the registration specifically says either it or a facsimile must be present in the automobile. A CHP officer suggested this to me as a safety precaution.

Still with cars, what about your GPS? Does it have a “Home” command with your address set in it, and do you have automatic garage door openers? The combination means that a person could watch as you enter a mall, assume you will be there for a while, and steal your car. Within minutes, the crook can be safely inside your garage, and inside your house to make a quick sweep for valuables to load into your car and escape — carefully closing the garage door behind him to avoid attracting attention. I suggest defining “Home” as an address in your neighborhood far enough away from your house that the door opener will not activate. If you cannot navigate to true home from there, you are probably too drunk to drive. For extra security, lock the house door inside the garage.

Do you throw away your mail, old bills, etc.? We shred everything with our address or other personal information on it. Shredding takes a few seconds. Strip shredders are the lowest variety entry-level shredder. They can sometimes be bought for free on rebates. They are better than nothing since re-assembling the strips takes time and a thief would rather be more profitably occupied. Confetti shredders are much better. As the name suggests, they shred in two directions to make small pieces rather than strips. This makes re-assembly very difficult. We bought an $80 shredder for $20 with rebates and it works fine (the rebate came through timely).

If you do these things to preserve some privacy, then we can talk more about privacy on the Internet. Private Browsing, Startpage, anonymisers, and other techniques all contribute something. What it best depends on your level of comfort.