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How to Protect Your Privacy Online with Safari in Mac OS X Snow Leopard

Even Mac users sometimes need to take steps to protect their privacy. Snow Leopard lets you protect Safari against both outside intrusion from the Internet and from prying eyes around your Mac. Protecting your privacy involves a few simple settings.

Although it's small, the padlock icon that appears at the top of the Safari window when you’re connected to a secure Web site means a great deal! A secure site encrypts the information that you send and receive, making it much harder for unscrupulous crooks to obtain credit card numbers and personal information. You can click the padlock icon (next to the site name) to display the security certificate in use on that particular site.

Limit cookies

In and of themselves, cookies aren’t bad things. Unlike a virus, a cookie file isn’t going to replicate itself or wreak havoc on your system, and only the original site can read the cookie that it creates. However, many folks don’t appreciate acting as a gracious host for a slew of little snippets of personal information. (Not to mention that some cookies have highly suggestive names, which could lead to all sorts of conclusions. End of story.)

You can choose to accept or reject all cookies by choosing Safari Prefences and then clicking the Security toolbar button.

Clean your cache

Safari speeds up the loading of Web sites by storing often-used images and multimedia files in a temporary storage, or cache, folder. Naturally, the files in your cache folder can be displayed (hint), which could lead to assumptions about the sites you’ve been visiting.

Luckily, Safari makes it easy to dump the contents of your cache file. Just choose Safari→Empty Cache; then click Empty to confirm that you want to clean up your cache.

Delete browsing history

As you might imagine, your History file leaves a very clear set of footprints indicating where you’ve been on the Web. To delete the contents of the History menu, choose History→Clear History (at the very bottom of the History menu).

Safari also allows you to specify an amount of time to retain entries in your History file. Open the Safari Preferences dialog, click the General tab, and then click the Remove History Items pop-up menu to specify the desired amount of time. Items can be rolled off daily, weekly, biweekly, monthly, or yearly.

Avoid pop-up ads

To block most of those pop-up windows with advertisements for everything from low-rate mortgages to "sure-thing" Internet casinos, click the Safari menu and verify that Block Pop-Up Windows is selected. (If it’s not selected, click the menu item to toggle it on.)

From time to time, you might run across a Web site that actually does something constructive with pop-up windows, such as present a download or login prompt. If you need to temporarily deactivate pop-up blocking, press Command+Shift+K to toggle it off. Then press Command+Shift+K again to turn pop-up blocking back on after you’ve finished with the site.

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