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How many times has a site, as often as not a dinosaur-news site, stopped you viewing their content without first giving them personal details?

To how many sites have you given personal details such as your name, email, age, geographic location, even your reading preferences and interests, your annual earnings, job title, and more?

Granted, these sites do not actually ask what toothpaste you use; but from the information you do give, they can usually trace your land address, telephone number, the company you work for, as well as being able to determine with which ads to bombard you next time you visit their site. These details can also be sold, or passed on as part of other contracts, to other organisations. This information is collected in cookies added to your computer.

[Note that, although organisations such as Doubleclick currently state that they will not link anonymous data to names, there is no reason why they will not change their policy, or even backdate the policy to include data and names that they are holding now. Doubleclick is used by Washington Post, amongst others, to provide ads for their pages.]

And what are the reasons given for this privacy intrusion?
To help you have an improved, more efficient reading ‘experience’; to collect data on their readership to better target, um, stories.

But there are ways of avoiding this intrusion of privacy, while still being able to read the articles.

  • Access the page through the Google news service. Google is preregistered with many newspaper-type sites, so when Google provides a link to an article on such a site, the open-sesame has already been activated.
    Trouble is, Google News does not provide links to all articles.
  • Enter a little-used spare email address (set up through your ISP) and a password.
    Problem is, remembering the email/password combination for next time or, having written it down in a hurry, remembering where it is filed.
  • Invent any old email address and password.
    This has similar problems to the last solution.
  • Use BugMeNot!

BugMeNot provides a free, user-friendly service to help those who wish to read net-articles without officious requirements to justify their existence.

To deal with an intrusive page,

  • either open another window to BugMeNot and copy the officious url into BugMeNot. A username and password will be returned for you to type or paste into officiousdom;
  • or, pre-create an appropriate ‘bookmarklet’,
    you can do this by dragging the following linked phrase, BugMeNot, to the Links or Bookmarks toolbar of your browser [tested with IE and Mozilla Firefox.];
    then when you wish to deal with an officious web-site, click on the link/bookmark and a small window will appear that contains the appropriate information. Again, type or paste the username/email and password.

f.a.q. page for BugMeNot.


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