Confidential use of the internet
Are you afraid of anyone with whom you share the use of this computer?
Are you denied the right to private, password protected internet activity and e-mail access?
If the answer is 'yes' to either of those questions and it's important that somebody doesn't know you're visiting sites like this one, the safest strategy is to use a computer to which they don't have access - perhaps use a friend's PC or use one at your local library or see if your employer can help.
Visiting web sites
Most computers are set so that they store pages from sites that you have visited. If you don't cover your tracks, anyone with minimal computer proficiency can find out which sites have been visited and which pages have been opened. Internet pages are opened in a 'browser'. There are several different sorts of browser available and they all work in a similar manner. The most common is Microsoft Internet Explorer. The type of browser you are using will be displayed in the top left hand side of the screen. Immediately below that there will be a line of words (e.g. File, Edit and View). That line is called the 'toolbar' and contains a series of menus that allow you to make the necessary changes. Many of the instructions refer to the 'cache', which is simply the folder in which temporary files are held.
Once you have finished visiting all the sites you need to obtain the information you seek, follow the instructions for your browser, but please be aware that an empty 'Temporary Internet Files' folder and a deleted 'History' may be sufficient to arouse suspicion. Once you have carried out the following instructions, it may be a good idea to then visit a few innocuous sites in order to start replacing the missing files and 'History'.
Please choose your browser from this list and follow the instructions provided:
Microsoft Internet Explorer
Select 'Tools' and from the drop-down menu select 'Internet options'. You will see a box titled 'Temporary Internet Files'. Click on the box labelled 'Delete files'. Below that is a box titled 'History'. Click on the box marked 'Clear History'. You have now emptied the folder that contains copies of the pages you have just visited.
To clear the History, Cache and Cookies in Firefox, use the following steps. Go to Tools, then Options, followed by the Privacy tag. You will then see tabs for History, Cookies and Cache. In the bottom right hand corner of these tabs will be a button 'Clear History Now' (Clear Cache and Clear Cookies in the other cases.) Press these and then the evidence of sites you were viewing will be gone.
Click on the 'Edit' menu in the toolbar and select 'Preferences' from the drop-down menu. Click on 'Clear History' and then click on 'Advanced' and select 'Cache'. Click on 'Clear disk cache'.
Netscape browser - Older
Click on the 'Options' menu. Select 'Network Options' and then click on 'Cache'. Click on 'Clear disk cache'.
Click on 'Members' menu in the toolbar. Click on 'Preferences' and then on the icon marked 'www'. Select 'Advanced' and then purge the cache.
Using Search Engines
You need to be aware that if you use a search engine (e.g. Google or Lycos) in your attempt to obtain information, their search bar (where you actually typed in your question or keyword) will retain a memory of the search. These instructions are specifically for Google but will be similar for any other search engine. Enter a single letter into the search bar. All searches beginning with that letter will appear in a drop-down menu. Look for any entries that you would not want anyone else to see, highlight them and press the 'Delete' button on the keyboard. Go through each letter in turn and remember that you may have started a search phrase with inverted commas. It might look suspicious if you delete all search entries, so just delete the ones that you need to conceal.
If someone you're afraid of won't let you set up your own e-mail account or create your own password protected identity within Outlook Express (or similar e-mail software), you would be advised to avoid sending e-mails from the computer to which the person you are afraid of has access. The main problem is that you have no control over when replies may be received. Once again, a friend or your employer might be able to help by allowing you to set up an e-mail account on their computer. If the person you're afraid of sends you e-mails that contain threats or other evidence of their behaviour, make sure that you print off and keep copies in case they're required later for legal proceedings.