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March 1999

Is Netscape Browsing You?

Netscape trailing behind you as you surf.

Now that everybody’s favorite, Netscape, has paired up with the online service everyone loves to hate, AOL, watch for a stampede to find reasons for disliking the browser manufacturer. One rumor circulating suggests your old friend has been browsing you. The "What’s Related" button on the Netscape Navigator toolbar appears to be an innocuous feature recommending sites related to the ones you are currently accessing, but it has ominous privacy implications. Every time you press this button, and on successive pages, a copy of the URL you are viewing is sent with a cookie, to Netscape. This information compromises your privacy, leaking your browsing habits, even, in extreme cases, confidential material on your internal network. Don’t take nasty comments from Microsoft Explorer fans too seriously, though. There is no evidence that Netscape actually records or uses this data in any way, but the potential exists for them to do so. Unless you are an exhibitionist, you might consider turning off “What's Related” under Preferences- >Navigator - >Smart Browsing.

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