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We hear people argue that unless you are doing something wrong, you don’t need privacy software. Such a notion might seem reasonable until you examine it more closely. If you share a PC, there is no reason to make it easy for someone else to know your surfing habits and personal identity details. Browsers and operating systems collect personal information as efficiently as a clothes dryer traps lint in a screen. Browsers keep track of address bar histories and cookies. They cache temporary internet files and list the sites you’ve visited and the files you’ve downloaded. Browsers maintain your list of favorite sites and they retain form data so that you can conveniently fill out new forms using the auto-complete feature. There is just no reason for anyone but you to see the details that browsers collect. The idea that you would not need privacy software if you weren't doing something wrong is a red herring because privacy is the central issue.
The Windows operating system is efficient at keeping track of information that might best stay private. It can display lists of temporary files, run histories and recent files. It keeps files in the recycle bin until you empty it. It knows your Start Menu history. And if you have copied something, it is stored in a clipboard. Even if you could remember every possible place to clean up after yourself, you would not be able to do anything about the file images left on the hard disk after deletion from the directory. So if you sold your PC to someone with sufficient file-recovery savvy, your credit card numbers and passwords would still be available long after you erased the files from their directories. Much could go wrong even though you did no wrong.
Privacy software such as PC Tools Privacy Guardian keeps private information private. PC Tools is a Symantec business unit with its head office in Australia and offices in Ireland, Silicon Valley, Ukraine and the United Kingdom. PC Tools develops and publishes PC protection and performance tools including Privacy Guardian, affordable internet privacy software that maintains a PC free of any records that could betray web surfing behavior. Without assistance from privacy software such as Privacy Guardian, you would not be able to completely remove every trace of internet behavior. You would leave data strewn on the hard drive that a computer geek or forensics specialist could recover.
We can uncover no glitches in the effectiveness of Privacy Guardian. If we ask it to ignore Explorer but clean Chrome, except for the downloaded program files, it does so. If we tell it to clean all cookies, except for Microsoft cookies, no problem. It cleans Windows settings in ways that you can specify. For example, it will clean the recycle bin, temporary files directory and clipboard contents, but if you don’t want it to clean the recent folder history, it won’t. It is easy to assign tasks and they finish quickly with no surprises.
Privacy Guardian identifies the browsers that are installed and keeps them clean of browsing and search histories, passwords, cookies and download logs. The menu choices make it simple to select what you want the software to do with these browsers. For example, you can tell it which cookies to keep. And you can ask it not to clean any auto-complete form data if you would rather keep it. It automatically detects the following browsers if you have installed them:
- Internet Explorer
- Google Chrome
Privacy Guardian erases recent file histories and recently opened file lists from the operating system records. It also erases any histories that Microsoft Office tries to keep. It clears out the recycle bin, recently run programs and the find and search bar. This privacy software hides activity logs and histories of photo browsers, peer-to-peer file transfer programs, email clients, FTP clients, media players and chat programs. Any files that you have deleted, it will shred. Just in case someone tries to violate your privacy with file recovery tools, Privacy Guardian bleaches the free hard disk space, so that deleted files cannot be resurrected.
Note that this privacy software does not mask your IP address as you surf the web. But it is probably best to use the firewall to hide your IP address, rather than entrust the function to any application.
Interacting with the software is easy and fun. The user interface is elegant and it is easy to reach and understand the features. The program responds effortlessly, and any operation completes quickly with plenty of status information. Tabs and menus are well designed so it is impossible to get lost.
The concept of personal privacy is one that humans have evolved fairly recently. But now that we have the concept, it is enshrined as a right that we have come to expect. Internet and computer technologies in the hands of criminal hackers, legitimate businesses, governments and jealous spouses have created a need that privacy software fulfills.
PC Tools Privacy Guardian costs little, yet it covers most of the bases. It gives you control over browsers and Windows. It cleans out any feature that stores your personal information or tracks your internet behavior so that nobody can retrace your activities or glean pieces of your identity. Furthermore, it removes any traces of deleted files. The boundaries to our privacy used to be physical. But now the battle for privacy is played out on a virtual stage. We find PC Tools Privacy Guardian to be the best privacy software, not because it has every feature known to computer science, but because of the balance that it achieves – a perfect balance between price and effectiveness.