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Protect your privacy when shopping online

On December 3, 2012

  • Adjust your browser privacy settings and you can shop online more confidently.

(BPT) If the growing online shopping statistics from the past few years have been any indication, buyers will again be flocking to online retailers this holiday season - perhaps in larger numbers than ever before.
 However, as people become increasingly savvier as Web shoppers, awareness and concerns about online privacy and safety have also grown. As many as 91 percent of consumers say that they are concerned about privacy when shopping online. Frequent news stories about consumer information being sold or mishandled have helped contribute to an atmosphere of mistrust, and more than half of consumers say they don't trust businesses with their personal information.
For those who love the convenience and choice that come along with online shopping, there are a few ways to ensure that your information is kept safe and private.

1. Read privacy policies. You've probably seen them countless times, but how often have you actually read a privacy policy? If you've shopped without reading, you're certainly not alone. While 97 percent of websites have a privacy policy, those documents average nearly 2,500 words - which is almost twice as long as the Declaration of Independence. It would take the average person at least 10 minutes to read that, and not too many online shoppers want to spend that much time. However, reading the privacy policy will give you the details about what a site is doing to keep your information safe.

2. Adjust your privacy settings. With a bit of tweaking, you can adjust your cookies and make your computer more protected and cut down on inadvertent data leakage. However, be prepared to spend some time doing this, and remember that each browser is different. If you use multiple browsers on multiple computers, you'll need to configure them all to your preferences. If making those changes is beyond the scope of your technological knowledge, you can try asking for help from a savvy friend or family member, or an electronics store employee might be able to help.

3. Look for privacy verification seals. Perhaps the easiest, quickest way to ensure that an online retailer is trustworthy is to look for seals and logos certifying a website's privacy practices, such as the green TRUSTe Certified Privacy Seal. It's an easy at-a-glance way to get an idea of how dedicated a retailer is to protecting its customers, but keep in mind that if you want to learn more, you can click on the seal to get more detailed information about the sites privacy practices. There are also browser add-ons that can help you find e-commerce sites that carry the seals, and an online directory of participating websites that you can browse.
During the holiday season, you can shop with more confidence if you know that your personal information is safe. And as retailers learn that consumers demand more privacy measures, they're responding by making their policies more easily available. For more information about making your shopping safe and secure, visit 

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