You may not keep a diary, but your computer does. For as long as you’ve used it, your PC has been faithfully preserving data that you likely know nothing about, and would wish to be rid of if you did know. Nuggets of potentially sensitive information scattered about your computer include bits of deleted files, parts of documents created or opened, leftovers from chats in IRC or IM, temporary files, browser pages, URLs and cookies from Web sites you’ve visited, documents printed, online search results, and more. Meanwhile, much of what you’ve done via the Internet is also logged on remote machines. Your ISP may log your Web activity, including e-mail and chats; the servers you contact may log your IP address and the data you’ve exchanged with them, as might the various routers, switches, and servers your Internet traffic passes through from point to point. IRC and instant messaging servers log your chats. When you post a message to an Internet bulletin board—even if you use an alias—it can be traced to your computer because IP addresses are usually logged. Your outbound e-mail is stored locally on your PC and remotely on other people’s computers and on mail servers, and may well be recorded for posterity. You can’t type a sentence, print a file, install or launch a program, view a Web page, chat with a friend, or send a memo without creating a record of it locally, remotely, or both. Our data traces are literally scattered everywhere. This is because computers and networks do a fine job of storing and sharing data, and a wretched job of controlling it. For users, asserting control over this data is difficult because software and hardware engineers have done little to facilitate it.
KeywordsData Packet Configuration File Data Trace Virtual Memory Temporary File
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