Thursday, December 21, 2006

Free (and low cost) Privacy Toolkit

Sometimes you might feel that you're forced to give out your personal information (such as your phone number, home address, e-mail address, etc.) in order for someone to contact you. For example if you sell things online, in newspapers, etc.

Then there are the web sites that force you to register your personal information in order to access content on it. If you're not a regular visitor of that site, or it's a site that you don't trust then you might be leery of giving out this information to them.

What if I told you there was a way to protect your privacy, while still allowing people the ability to contact you when they want to. There are several web sites on the Internet that offer free or low-cost services that can help protect your privacy.
Disclaimer: Use the tools and services listed below at your own risk. I do not recommend or endorse any of the companies, services, or software listed below. The information on this site is provided for general reference purposes only.
Creating a Public E-mail Address
The first thing that you need in your privacy toolkit is a public email address, one that you don't mind giving out to people, companies, web sites, or publishing on the Internet. This address is basically going to be your first line of contact for people whom you don't know and web sites that you don't trust.

Several companies such as Google's Gmail, Yahoo's Yahoo Mail, Microsoft's Windows Live Mail, etc. offer free email addresses with SPAM filtering, file attachment virus scanning, etc. The main issue about having this extra account is that you're going to have to check it on a regular basis in order to maintain it.

Avoiding Web Site Registration
If you hate registering at web sites that you almost know that you will never visit again or visit infrequently there are two tools that I would suggest. The first is called BugMeNot, this site has generic user names and passwords for popular web sites that you can use so you don't have to register.

The second web site I want to suggest is one called 10-Minute Mail. This site gives you a disposable e-mail address that only lives for 10 minutes. After the time expires the email address and messages are automatically deleted.

Real World Privacy
What about those times when you need to receive or make a phone call, or fax. There are a few sites that can offer you a solution.

The first site is called PrivatePhone, which offers to give you a free local phone number that people can leave you messages. The voice mails that you receive through this service will be mail to your email account.

If you need to receive faxes there is a service called jConnect, that gives you a phone number for people to send faxes to. The faxes that you receive through this service will be mail to your email account.

If you need to make calls to other people, check out Skype's SkypeOut service. If you need a public phone number to receives calls use the SkypeIn feature. Note: there is a cost associated with sending and receiving calls using this service.

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