%brandDTD; ]> Privacy on the Internet

Using Privacy Features

Your browser includes features you can use to enhance the privacy and security of your personal information. The sections that follow describe how your browser can help you control cookies, passwords, and images while you are surfing the Internet.

For information about related &brandShortName; security features, see Signing & Encrypting Messages and Using Certificates.

Privacy topics:

Privacy on the Internet

This section summarizes some background information about privacy on the Internet. It also describes several things you can do to help safeguard your own privacy. It is not intended to provide a complete description of Internet privacy issues.

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What Information Does My Browser Give to a Website?

When your browser displays a web page—for example, each time you click a link or type a URL, or when a web page is displayed in an email message—it gives certain kinds of information to the website. This information may include (but is not limited to) your operating environment, your Internet address, and the page you're coming from.

Operating Environment

The website is told something about your operating environment, such as your browser type and operating system. This helps the website present the page in the best way for your screen. For example, the website might learn that you use the French version of SeaMonkey 2.1 on a Windows 2000 computer.

Internet Address

Your browser must tell the website your Internet address (also known as the Internet Protocol, or IP address) so the website knows where to send the page you are requesting. The website can't present the page you want to see unless it knows your IP address.

Your IP address can be either temporary or fixed (static).

If you connect to the Internet through a standard modem that's attached to your phone line, then your Internet service provider (ISP) may assign you a temporary IP address each time you log on. You use the temporary IP address for the duration of your Internet session—for example, until you sign off or hang up your dial-up connection, or otherwise end your computer's live connection with the Internet. Each ISP has many IP addresses, and they assign the addresses at random to users.

If you have DSL, a cable modem, or a fiber-optic connection, you may have a fixed IP address that you use every time you connect.

Your IP address is not the same as your email address.

Referring Page

The website is also told which page you were reading when you clicked a link to see one of the website's pages. This allows the website to know which website referred you. Or, as you traverse the website, it allows the website to know which of its pages you came from.

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What Are Cookies, and How Do They Work?

A cookie is a small bit of information used by some websites. When you visit a website that uses cookies, the website might ask your browser to place one or more cookies on your hard disk.

Later, when you return to the website, your browser sends back the cookies that belong to the website.

When you are using the default cookie settings, this activity is invisible to you, and you won't know when a website is setting a cookie or when your browser is sending a website's cookie back. However, you can set your preferences so that you will be asked before a cookie is set. For information on how to do this, see Privacy & Security Preferences - Cookies.

How Do Websites Use Cookie Information?

Cookies allow a website to know something about your previous visits. For example, if you typically search for local weather or purchase books at a website, the website may use cookies to remember what city you live in or what authors you like, so it can make your next visit easier and more useful.

Some websites publish privacy policies that describe how they use the information they gather.

What Are Third-Party Cookies?

If your browser stores a website's cookie, it will return the cookie only to that particular website. Your browser will not provide one website with cookies set by another. Since a website can only receive its own cookies, it can learn about your activities while you are at that website but not your activities in general while surfing the Web.

But sometimes a website displays content that is hosted on another website. That content can be anything from an image to text or an advertisement. The other website that hosts such elements also has the ability to store a cookie in your browser, even though you don't visit the website directly.

Cookies that are stored by a website other than the one you are visiting are called third-party cookies or foreign cookies. Websites sometimes use third-party cookies with transparent GIFs, which are special images that help websites count users, track email responses, learn more about how visitors use the website, or customize your browsing experience. (Transparent GIFs are also known as web beacons or web bugs.)

If you want, you can adjust your cookie preferences so that websites can store ordinary cookies but not third-party ones.

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How Can I Control Web Pages in Email Messages?

You can disable cookies, images, and plugins completely (JavaScript is always disabled) for web pages that are received as part of email messages.

While it may be convenient to enable some or all of these capabilities when you're browsing the web, they may not be necessary in single web pages sent as attachments to messages.

For information on enabling or disabling cookies, images, and plugins in email messages, see the following sections:

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How Can I Make Sure Unauthorized People Don't Use Information About Me?

The best way to keep your information private is to read the privacy policies for the websites you visit and the Internet services you use, and to be cautious about giving out your personal information online.

The Internet is a public network. When you send your name, phone number, address, and other personal information over the network (via a web page, email, or any other method), it is possible that someone else may be able to intercept it.

Here are some questions you might ask about a website's privacy policy:

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