Video: Vaporize your e-mail trail?

By Senior producer
msnbc.com
updated 9/25/2006 5:41:54 PM ET 2006-09-25T21:41:54
COMMENTARY

In the past few days, the top attention-grabbing stories at tech sites have been about Web privacy.

On Friday, we brought you a story about a new version of Mozilla’s Firefox browser called Torpark.

If you are not familiar with Firefox, it's an alternative to Internet Explorer or Apple Safari--the browsers that usually come with your computer.  But Firefox has the added benefit of blocking pop-up ads and tabbing your browsing, allowing you to have multiple pages open in the same window.

The new version of Firefox was developed by a privacy rights group called Hactivismo, and it goes a step further to encrypt your computer's address, leaving no footprints on the Web.

The founder of Hactivismo, who goes by "Oxblood" online, said it is free because “no one should have to pay for basic human rights, especially privacy.”

We got a huge response to the story, and received several emails from people who wanted more information.

I would suggest you simply go to the Torpark site and read more straight from Oxblood’s mouth, and then download the browser.

Today, the big story is about a brand new tool called Vaporstream, a site that renders your email messages untraceable.  It’s like something out of a Bond movie.

Let's say you and your friend both join Vaporstream.  The emails you send each other will disappear after you read them and there is no record.

It's like you ate the note- it’s gone. What note?

These two tech advances--the self-destructing emails and anonymous browsers both are reactions to the same dilemma.

Web users are concerned about privacy, especially since we've heard that Internet service providers are handing your search records over to the government.  Recently, we also learned that AOL was kind enough to publicly post information about more than 600,000 customers.  Oops.


These products are coming as a response to those concerns, but they are not without their own troubles.

If I can move in stealth about the Internet, leaving no footsteps or emails to detect, then so can a terrorist, a pedophile, or a spy.  True.

And that is the concern critics are voicing, including a viewer of our program who wrote to us to say just that.

I agree that it is imperfect for these reasons, but I offer you this as solace: Technology is not bad.  People can be bad or use the technology for nefarious purposes.  This is true of nearly anything one could invent and it is no reason to keep a product away from decent people.

As for stealth browsers, consider this-you and your child will also be in stealth, not just the creeps lurking in the shadows.  If your child is anonymous on the Web, he or she is protected-no personal information is revealed and no contact can be made.

Best of luck on the Internet!

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