What Are Examples of Computer Privacy?

By Serm Murmson

Even the most public computers can be used with some privacy.
i Jetta Productions/Lifesize/Getty Images

Depending on the nature of your computer use, your data could be seen by other local or remote users. In order to safeguard your information, it is important to fully understand the visibility of data on a computer. Privacy is extremely important when multiple users access the same computer and when a computer is often used on the Internet. It is easy to protect your sensitive information in these cases of computer use.

User Accounts

Most operating systems allow you to set up multiple accounts for different users. Within these accounts, the desktop configurations, personal file folders, and software settings are all specific to a user. These user accounts can all be password protected. On startup, anybody who uses the computer will have to select a user account. In this way, each user can keep his/her personal files and settings private.

File Protection

If you wish to protect individual files or folders from access by other users, you can password protect them from within your operating system's file explorer function. Furthermore, if you are worried about your files being accessed regardless of their password security, you can encrypt them. Encryption renders the data inaccessible until it is decrypted. Programs such as TrueCrypt, Symantec Encryption, and CryptoForge allow you to encrypt files, entire drives, and sometimes individual email messages.

Internet Privacy

Once a computer is connected to the Internet, privacy becomes a much more complex issue. There are a number of steps that can help you maximize your Internet privacy. First, Internet browsers can store the data you enter into website fields. Your usernames, email addresses, and even passwords can be remembered by a browser. Second, your browser will store a record of the websites you have visited in its history. If you want to maximize your browser privacy so that other users of the same computer will not be able to view your personal data, you can configure these settings and regularly clear them from your browser's options menu. Lastly, each browser has options for configuring cookie settings. Cookies are small files that store your personal settings for specific websites. Turning off cookies is a more private way of browsing the Internet. However, certain websites require you to enable cookies, so this might prevent you from visiting certain sites.

Internet Hosting Privacy

If you host your own website, you may wish to protect individual files or folders from being accessed by certain visitors to your website. In order to do this, you must set up configuration files that indicate which things must be kept private, and to what degree they are accessible. Depending on the type of server you use, the exact nature of your configuration protocol may vary. On many servers, the .Htaccess file configures your privacy. Furthermore, within the ASP.NET server framework, the Web.config file can be used to alter security settings. One or both of these files, once uploaded to your server, tell the server how to configure the accessibility of your hosted data.

Other Examples of Computer Privacy

Beyond these configurable settings and options, you can maximize your computer privacy by always closing any customized aspect of your sessions of computer use. On a public computer that is always on, you should sign out of any personal Internet accounts and close any open programs before you leave the computer. On a personal computer, you should also log out of your operating system account or shut down the computer entirely. Closing your sessions in this way will further ensure that your personal data is not visible to the next user.