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Surfer beware. Last week’s discussion of cookies
that can track surfers around the Net resulted in tons of response. Two
readers had additional helpful suggestions for avoiding cookies,
although their methods will be useful mostly to intermediate and
advanced computer users. “Simply make your cookie.txt file ‘read only’
and set your browser to accept all cookies. The browser won’t complain
and you won’t get any cookies,” one writer said. A second recommended
surfing with two browsers open, switching back and forth between them:
“If I use Netscape for DoubleClick cookies and IE5 for websites, they
are unable to track my usage.”

DoubleClick did set up an href=http://www.doubleclick.net/optout>opt-out page for those who
want to make sure this organization doesn’t track them.

It’ll make you sick. News didn’t get any better on the privacy
front this week. The California HealthCare Foundation issued a report
warning that some health-care Web sites are collecting information on
those who visit. (Seven of the 21 sites studied were using DoubleClick.)
Often this occurs in violation of the site’s privacy policy. This news
is particularly scary because health research is one of the most popular
activities on the Web. The co-author of the study, Janlori Goldman of
Georgetown University, declared that that surfers should be “extremely
careful.”

This translates to not giving your real name or your primary e-mail
address to any site where you aren’t buying anything.(A cookie cannot
track you by name or address unless you’ve given that information to a
site.) If there’s some reason you must register at a site, set up a free
e-mail account at Yahoo!mail or href=http://www.hotmail.com>Hotmail and use that.

Of course, lots of people just give fictitious names and e-mail
addresses. That’s not going to work if you’re planning to buy an airline
ticket or a dozen roses for Valentine’s Day, but I consider it perfectly
acceptable at other sites — most of which, in my opinion, don’t really
need your name and/or address.

If you missed last week’s column, head back to the archive and look
it up so you can protect yourself from nosy companies that want to know
where you go and what you do on the Net. And do read the FAQs at the
recommended sites; there’s lots of misinformation out there about
cookies.

Complications. Of course, the lure of getting something for
nothing (or for very little) often causes us to give up some of our
privacy. This happens when we sign up for a free Internet service
provider, for instance, or earn points by visiting certain sites. In
those cases — unlike DoubleClick’s — consumers are knowingly letting
advertisers have certain information because they think that what they
get in return is worth it.

I think we’ll see a lot more of this in the future. In fact, one
upcoming site — scheduled to go online any time now — is
Freescholarships.com. It’s going to be dangling quite a carrot in order
to get information about you to sell to marketers: $10,000 a day in
scholarship money, which can be used to pay for kindergarten to grad
school (or even get rid of student loans). The problem is, this is much
like a lottery. Once parents and students discover the site, the chances
of winning will be astronomical — but the company will still be making
money on information about you and those you refer to the site. (If that
doesn’t turn you off, check http://www.freescholarships.com occasionally
to see when they get online.)

Print your own coupons. Most of the coupon sites on the Net
are a disappointment and, for you, this one may be, too. It depends on
where you live and what you’d like to get a discount on. At href=http://www.hotcoupons.com>Hot Coupons, click on your state,
which brings up a list of cities and how many offers there are in each.
Then you have to click on “H.O.T.! Deals” under each city’s listing. You
might get 25 percent off on a dry cleaning order or not find much.

At Cool Savings you
can get discounts and rebates at Web merchants, as well as print out
coupons just like the ones that come in the Sunday paper. Before you
head to the drive-thru window, stop by href=http://ljsilvers.com/coupons.htm>Long John Silver’s for
money-saving coupons.

The price is right. You’ll find all sorts of free downloads
and offers at Freebie Stuff if
you register.

The place for kids. That’s how href=http://www.kidtastic.com>Kidtastic bills itself. Kids click on
the buildings in the city for a variety of fun experiences. There’s a
music center, computer center, library, museum, movie theater, a games
arcade, even a school, where kids can e-mail questions and the site
helps them find an answer.

The wall. You can create and print a virtual rubbing of any
name on the actual Vietnam Wall.

Blast from the past. Are you old enough to remember
eight-track tapes? Then you’ve got to visit href=http://www.8trackheaven.com>8-Track Heaven.

The quirky Web. And as long as you’re looking at funky sites,
try href=http://www.lileks.com/institute/orphanage/index.html>Orphanage of
Cast-Off Mascots. Or everything you ever wanted to know about href=http://www.bluecalabash.com.au/goatee>goatees at the Goatee
Gallery.

From sea to shining sea. A photographer set out to drive from
the Statue of Liberty to the Golden Gate Bridge and stop each mile along
the way to take a photograph — 3,304 in all. View the results at href=http://www.kodak.com/US/en/corp/features/onTheRoad>American Mile
Markers.

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