Home / Glossary
Guide to Internet Terms: A Glossary
Access - Refers to the user's ability to view the data collected about him or her, and to challenge its accuracy and completeness. Access is the third principle of " fair information practices, along with (1) Notice, (2) Choice, and (4) Security.
Affirmative Confirmation - Refers to a site's or an Internet Service Provider's use of personal data to tailor or modify the content or design of the site to specifications affirmatively selected by a particular individual. For example, you may permit a shopping site to use the record of your book purchases to make recommendations of other publications that may interest you. The site will thus display a list of its recommendations every time you visit.
Aggregate - A collection of information in which no individual information can be distinguished or identified. Aggregated information can be used to determine the characteristics of a group, such as "Sixty percent of our users are over 35."
Anonymity (also see Pseudonymity and Pseudonymous Profiling) - A recipient cannot reply to the message and that email sender's identity (identity meaning the user's real email address or other identifying information such as IP address data) is not known and cannot be known -- even by the tool company.
Anonymizer - An anonymizer is essentially a shield between your computer and the Internet that relays Web traffic through an intermediary server. It hides personally identifying information--such as IP address, browser software used, surfing patterns, etc.--from any Web site you visit, and prevents sites from adding any cookies or other files to your computer. Anonymizers working in the same way as many firewalls.
Applet - A small Java program which allows a file or Web page to display animation, calculators, sound effects or other interactive functions. (See also "Java")
BBBOnLine - The Better Business Bureau's Online privacy seal program that certifies eligible Web sites, holding sites to baseline privacy standards. The program requires its licensees to implement certain fair information practices and to submit to various types of compliance monitoring in order to display a privacy seal on their Web sites.
Bit - The smallest element of computerized data. A full text page in English is about 16,000 bits. (See also "Byte")
Blacklist - A list of "bad" email addresses (spam) or inappropriate Web sites. Some filtering and blocking tools can be set up to prevent access to Web sites on the blacklist or to prevent email from addresses on the blacklist from entering your inbox.
Blocking software - Computer programs that filter content from the Internet and block access to some Web sites or content based on specified criteria. Parents, teachers, or caregivers can use blocking software to prevent access to certain Web sites and other information available over the Internet. (See also "Client-based filter" and "Filtering software")
Blog - Short for Web log. A blog is a Web site to which one or more people post their personal observations on particular subjects. Postings to blogs typically are frequent and consistent. Much of the power of blogs stems from automated templates that allow users to post news, information, links, images, or other media to an existing blog.
Bulletin board - An area of a Web site where users can post messages for other users to read. In most cases, readers can contact the author of a bulletin board message by e-mail. (See also "chat," chat room," and "Discussion group")
Bundling - Most often, this refers to the inclusion of software components to complement a purchase of hardware. This term can also refer to the process by which some unwanted spyware can enter your computer, by surreptitiously downloading alongside other, more desirable downloads.
Byte - A unit of measure of computer memory. A byte generally represents one character, such as "A," and is made up of eight bits. (See also "Bit")
Cache - A file on the hard drive in which a Web browser stores information such as addresses, text, and graphics from recently visited Web sites, making it easier and faster for the user to revisit a site.
CD-ROM (Compact Disk - Read Only Memory) - A computer storage medium which can store large amounts of information; generally used to distribute software or multi-media for use on computers with CD-ROM drives. CD-ROM disks look just like music CDs, and cannot be altered by a user.
Chat - A feature offered by many online services or Web sites that allows participants to "chat" by typing messages which are displayed almost instantly on the screens of other participants who are using the chat room. Chatting is one of the most popular uses of the Internet. Generally the participants remain anonymous, using nicknames or pseudonyms to identify themselves online.
Chat room - The name given to a place or page in a Web site or online service where people can "chat" with each other by typing messages which are displayed almost instantly on the screens of others who are in the "chat room." Chat rooms are also called "online forums."
Client-based filter - A software program that a user installs on his or her own computer to monitor Internet use, block access to specific types of material, prevent kids from accessing the Internet at certain times, or prevent kids from revealing personal information online. (See also "Filtering software" and "Blocking software")
Content - The actual text of a communication or information sent. Includes text of e-mails, bulletin board postings, chat room communications, files and graphics. Content does not include routing information, the date, time, or subject of the message, or other transactional data.
Cookie - A piece of information sent by a Web server to a user's browser. (A Web server is the computer that "hosts" a Web site, and responds to requests from a user's browser.) Cookies may include information such as login or registration identification, user preferences, online "shopping cart" information, etc. The browser saves the information, and sends it back to the Web server whenever the browser returns to the Web site. The Web server may use the cookie to customize the display it sends to the user, or it may keep track of the different pages within the site that the user accesses. Browsers may be configured to alert the user when a cookie is being sent, or to refuse to accept cookies. Some sites, however, cannot be accessed unless the browser accepts cookies. (See also "Personally identifiable information")
Cyberspace - Refers to the various information resources that are available through computer networks and the Internet, as well as to "communities" which have developed through their common use of such resources, and to the culture which is developing in such electronically connected communities. May also be used to distinguish the physical world from the digital, or computer-based world.
Data Mining (also see Online Profiling)- The practice of compiling information about Internet users by tracking their motions through Web sites, recording the time they spend there, what links they clink on and other details that the company desires, usually for marketing purposes.
Discussion group - Online area, like an electronic bulletin board, where users can read and add or "post" comments about a specific topic. Users can find discussion groups, also referred to as "discussion boards," for almost any topic. (See also "Newsgroups")
Domain name - Domain names are the alphabetic names used to refer to computers on the Internet. A Web site address, including a suffix such as .com, .org, .gov, or .edu. The suffix indicates what type of organization is hosting the site.
- com - Originally stood for "commercial," to indicate a site that could be used for private, commercial purposes, but now the best well known top level domain, and used for a wide variety of sites
- net - Originally intended for site related to the Internet itself, but now used for a wide variety of sites
- edu - Use for educational institutions like universities
- org - Originally intended for non-commercial "organizations," but organizations now used for a wide variety of sites
- gov - Used for US Government sites
- mil - Used for US Military sites
- int - Used by "International" sites, usually NATO sites
Download - to transfer (copy) files from one computer to another. "Download" can also mean viewing a Web site, or material on a Web server, with a Web browser. (See also "Upload")
Downstream Data Use - Refers to companies' practice of disclosing personal information collected from users to other parties "downstream to facilitate a transaction. For example, a content provider may disclose your personal information to a shipping company that will deliver the order to your house. The content provider may also disclose your personal information to a billing or credit card company in order to charge you for the transaction.
E-mail (Electronic Mail) - Messages sent through an electronic (computer) network to specific groups or individuals. Though e-mail is generally text, users can attach files that include graphics, sound, and video. E-mailing requires a modem to connect the telephone line to the computer, and an e-mail address. E-mail addresses include the @ symbol, such as email@example.com.
Email Header - Information that identifies the sender and recipient of a message, information about how the message was routed through the network, the date and time at which the message was sent, and the subject of the message.
Encryption - A means of making data unreadable to everyone except the recipient of a message. Encryption is often used to make the transmission of credit card numbers secure for those who are shopping on the Internet.
End user licensing agreement - This refers to the information to which the computer user is referred in the context of downloading software. The "end user" is the person for whom software is ultimately designed.
Executable file - A file that is in a format the computer can directly execute, as opposed to source files, which are created by and for the user. Executable files are essential to running your computer, but can also do it harm. Spyware programs often include executable files that can operate without your knowledge.
Fair Information Practices - Privacy guidelines enumerated in the 1973 report released by the U.S. Department of Health, Education, and Welfare. The principles, which include (1) Notice, (2) Choice, (3) Access, and (4) Security, have been developed and recognized by agencies in the US, Canada, and Europe.
FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions) - Pages which list and answer the questions most often asked about a Web site, newsgroup, etc. The FAQ page often provides useful information for a new user of a Web site, mailing list, discussion group, or product.
Filtered ISP - An Internet Service Provider (ISP) that sets criteria for determining content which is inappropriate for children, and automatically blocks subscriber access to that content. Parents and other caregivers who are choosing a filtered ISP should review the company's criteria for blocking, and make sure those criteria reflect their own values and judgments.
Filtering software - Software that screens information on the Internet and classifies its content. Some filtering software allows the user to block access to certain kinds of content. (See also "Blocking software," "Client-based filtering software," and "Server-based filtering software")
Financial Information (also see Purchase Information) - Information about an individual's finances, including account status and activity information such as account balance, payment or overdraft history, and information about an individual's purchase or use of financial instruments including credit or debit card information.
Note: Purchase Information alone does not constitute Financial Information.
Gateway - A computer system for exchanging information across incompatible networks by translating between two dissimilar protocols. May also describe any mechanism that gives access to another, such as an ISP which acts as a gateway to the Internet.
Health Information - Personal data, which may be collected by a site or a service provider, about an individual's physical or mental health, sexual orientation, use or inquiry into health care services or products, and purchase of health care services or products.
Hyperlink - An image or portion of text on a Web page that is linked to another Web page, either on the same site or in another Web site. Clicking on the link will take the user to another Web page, or to another place on the same page. Words or phrases which serve as links are underlined, or appear in a different color, or both. Images that serve as links have a border around them, or they change the cursor to a little hand as it passes over them. (See also "Links")
ICRA - (Internet Content Rating Association) - An international, independent, non-profit organization which administers a rating system to identify potentially objectionable material included in rated Web sites. (See also "RSACi")
Individual Profiling - Refers to a site's or a service provider's use of personal data to create or build a record on the particular individual or computer for the purpose of compiling habits or personally identifiable information of that individual or computer. For example, online stores may recommend products based on the visitor's purchasing history on the specific Web site or online in general.
IM or Instant Message - IM (Instant Message) - Technology similar to that of chat rooms, which notifies a user when a friend is online, allowing them to "converse" by exchanging text messages. (See also "Web-based instant messaging")
Individual Profiling - Refers to a site's or service provider's use of personal data to create or build a record on the particular individual or computer for the purpose of compiling habits or personally identifiable information of that individual or computer. For example, online stores my recommend products based on the visitor's purchasing history on the specific Web site or online in general.
Internet - A global connection of computer networks, also referred to as the "Net," which share a common addressing scheme. (See also "World Wide Web")
Intranet - A private network inside a company or organization, which uses software like that used on the Internet, but is for internal use only, and is not accessible to the public. Companies use Intranets to manage projects, provide employee information, distribute data and information, etc.
IP Address (or IP number) - A set of four numbers, each between zero and 255, separated by periods (eg: 192.168.0.5). The IP address uniquely identifies a computer or other hardware device (such as a printer) on the Internet.
IRC (Internet Relay Chat) - A protocol and a program type that allows participants to "chat" online in a live forum that usually centers around a common interest. IRC is the earliest form of online chat.
ISP (Internet Service Provider) - A company that sells direct access to the Internet, most often through dialing a local phone number. Unlike some online services, ISPs provide little or no proprietary content or online services.
Java -A computer programming language invented by Sun Microsystems. Using Java, Web developers create small programs called "applets" that allow Web pages to include animations, calculators, scrolling text, sound effects and games. (See also "Applet")
Keystroke logger - Hardware device or a software program that records each keystroke made on a particular computer. Marketed as a way for parents to monitor their children's activities on a computer, keystroke loggers are sometimes downloaded unwittingly by users. The keystroke logger then records the keystrokes and periodically uploads the information over the internet.
Keyword - A word that is entered into the search form or search "window" of an Internet search engine to search the Web for pages or sites about or including the keyword and information related to it.
Limitation Collection - The established principle that collection of personal data should be limited to information that is necessary to complete a transaction. For instance, an online service provider that requires you to provide a copy of your tax returns as a condition of becoming a subscriber obviously collects more information than it requires to process a membership. When " personally identifiable information" is not necessary to support the initial activity, users should have the opportunity to restrict or deny its collection.
Mailing list - An E-mail-based discussion forum dedicated to a topic of interest. An interested Internet user can subscribe to a mailing list by sending an e-mail message that contains appropriate instructions to a specific e-mail address. The computer that houses the mailing list program maintains a list of subscribers and routes all posted messages to subscribers' electronic mailboxes. Mailing lists are either publicly and privately maintained, and can either be moderated or unmoderated.
Modem - A hardware device that allows computers to communicate with each other by transmitting signals over telephone lines, enabling what is called "dial-up access." Modems come in different speeds. The higher the speed, the faster the data are transmitted. The fastest widely available modems are "56K" (or 56 kilobits per second).
Mouse - A palm-size device attached to a computer by a cord, which allows the user to select items displayed on the screen by controlling the cursor, and to give commands by clicking the device's buttons. (See also "Hardware")
Multiple, tagged email address - These tools will provide you with new email addresses to use when you are asked to provide an email address on the Web. Mail from these email addresses will be forwarded to your account, but the sender will not know your true email address. You can turn off the duplicate email addresses if you begin to receive spam at one of them. Also, the email addresses are "tagged" so you will know which companies are sending you spam or selling your email address.
Navigation and Click-stream Data - Refers to user data passively generated by browsing the Internet. Includes information regarding the links on which a user clicks, pages a user visits and the amount of time spent on each page.
Netizens - Citizens of cyberspace. (See also "Cyberspace")
Newsgroups - Discussion groups on the Internet (not on the Web, which is only one area of the Internet). Newsgroups are classified by subject matter and do not necessarily deal with journalism or "news." Health, hobbies, celebrities, and cultural events are the subjects of many newsgroups. Participants in a newsgroup conduct discussions by posting messages for others to read, and responding to the messages posted by others.
OECD Guidelines - Privacy Guidelines issued in late 1980 by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. Albeit broad, the OECD guidelines set up important standards for future governmental privacy rules; the guidelines underpin most current international agreements, national laws, and self-regulatory policies.
One-Time Tailoring - Refers to a site's or a service provider's use of personal data to tailor or modify content or design of the site not affirmatively selected by the particular individual, where the information is used only for a single visit to the site and not used for any kind of future customization. For example, an online store may suggest items a visitor may wish to purchase based on the products that she has already placed in her shopping basket.
Online Contact Information (also see Physical Contact Information)- Information that allows an individual to be contacted or located on the Internet, such as the e-mail address. Often, this information is independent of the specific computer used to access the network.
Online Profiling (also see Individual Profiling and Data Mining) - The practice of aggregating information about consumers' preferences and interests, gathered primarily by tracking their online movements and actions, with the purpose of creating targeted advertisement using the resulting profiles.
Open Proxies - Many people share their Broadband Internet connection with multiple PDS with some form of proxy software. Some proxy software activates on both network interfaces which means that the proxy will be usable from a customer's internal network and from the Internet facing connection. An Open Proxy will allow a third party to not only exploit a system to send unsolicited email but can also be used for newsgroup postings, chat sessions and in some cases anonymous web browsing.
Operating System - The main program that runs on a computer. An operating system allows other software to run and prevents unauthorized users from accessing the system. Major operating system include UNIX, Windows, MacOS, and Linux.
Opt-in - A policy for giving permission under which the user explicitly permits the Web site operator to either collect the information, use it in a specified manner and/or share it with others when such use or disclosure to third parties is unrelated to the purpose for which the information was collected. (See also "opt-out")
Opt-out - A policy under which the user's permission is implied unless the user explicitly requests that his/her information not be collected, used and/or shared when such use or disclosure to third parties is unrelated to the purpose for which the information was collected. (See also "opt-in")
Peer-to-peer - Any network in which all the computers are of equal capacities and capabilities, as opposed to a client-server network, in which one machine is intended to serve the needs of others. File-sharing networks are generally constructed with a peer-to-peer (also known as P2P) architecture.
Personally Identifiable Transactional Data - Information that describes your online activities such as the Web sites that you have visited, addresses to which you have sent email, files that you have downloaded, and other information revealed in the normal course of using the Internet. Transactional data differs from the content of a communication since it is not the actual substance of your communication, but rather the information about your communication. Personal user preferences tracked by a Web site via a online cookies are also considered personally identifiable when linked to other personally identifiable information provided by online users.
Phishing - An identity theft scam in which criminals send out spam that imitates the look and language of legitimate correspondence from e-commerce sites. The fake messages generally link to Web sites which are similarly faked to look like the sites of the respected companies. On the sites, you are directed to enter your personal information for authentication or confirmation purposes. The information, when submitted, however, goes to the thieves, not to the "spoofed" company.
Platform for Privacy Preferences Project (P3P) - A set of software-writing guidelines developed by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), the standard-setting body for the Web. P3P is designed to provide Internet users with a clear understanding of how personal information will be used by a particular Web site, empowering users to avoid sites that do not meet their privacy preferences.
PICS - (Platform for Internet Content Selection) - Technology that allows Web browsers to read content ratings of Web sites. Content ratings are administered by the Internet Content Rating Association (ICRA), an independent, non-profit organization. (See also "ICRA" and "RSACi")
Political Information - User information, which may be collected by a site or a service provider, regarding membership in or affiliation with groups such as religious organizations, trade unions, professional associations, political parties, etc.
Pseudonymity (also see Anonymity) - The identity of the sender (identity meaning the user's real email address or other identifying information such as IP address data) is not known to the recipient but is known to the tool company --and the recipient may be able to reply to the message.
Pseudonymous Profiling - Refers to a site's or a service provider's use of personal data to create or build a record of a particular individual or computer that is tied to a pseudonymous identifier, without tying personally-identifiable information (such as name, address, phone number, email address, or IP address) to the record. This profile is usually used to determine the habits, interests, or other characteristics of individuals while it is not used to attempt to identify specific individuals.
RSACi - (Recreational Software Advisory Council on the Internet) - Rating system managed by ICRA (Internet Content Rating Association) to provide consumers with information about the level of sex, nudity, violence, offensive language (vulgar or hate-motivated) in Web sites. Ratings provided by RSACi are recognized by PICS technology. (See also "ICRA" and "PICS")
Search engine -A tool that enables users to locate information on the World Wide Web. Search engines use keywords entered by users to find Web sites which contain the information sought. Some search engines are specifically designed to find Web sites intended for children.
Secure Socket Layer (SSL) - A secure socket layer is a protocol used to transmit sensitive data securely via the Internet. SSL uses a two key encryption system to secure data, a public key and a private key known only by the recipient of the message. Many Web sites use SSL when collecting information for transactions, generally these URLs will begin with https: instead of http:.
Server - A special computer connected to a network that provides (serves up) data. A Web server transmits Web pages over the Internet when it receives a Web browser's request for a page. A server can also be called a host or node.
Server-based filter - Software which is installed on a host server, such as a Web server, to filter out Web pages which include content which meets specific criteria. Users who connect to a server which uses a filter will only be able to access those pages which get through the server's filter.
Service Set Identifier (SSID) - A service set identifier is used to name a wireless local area network (WLAN). SSIDs are case sensitive text strings in a sequence of letters and numbers, no more than 32 characters long.
Software - A computer program, which provides the instructions which enable the computer hardware to work. System software, such as Windows or MacOS, operate the machine itself, and applications software, such as spreadsheet or word processing programs, provide specific functionality.
Spam - Unsolicited "junk" e-mail sent to large numbers of people to promote products or services. Sexually explicit unsolicited e-mail is called "porn spam." Also refers to inappropriate promotional or commercial postings to discussion groups or bulletin boards.
Subscription Data - Subscription data is the information that you provide to an online service when you sign up to become a member. Subscription data usually includes your name, physical address, email address, billing information, and telephone numbers.
Third Party Cookies - Cookies placed on the user's computer by any domain other than the host of the Web site the user is visiting. Third party cookies could be used for a variety of functions, including graphics, charts or tables, articles, or advertising on the Web page the users are visiting.
Uninstall - The process of removing a program from a computer. Some applications must be removed with an uninstall program, which removes all files that were installed with the program and restores any modifications made to system files.Unique email address - An address that is hard for spammers to guess, but easy for you to remember. For example, using both letters and numbers in your email address may make it difficult for spammers to guess your email address.
Unique Identifiers - Non-financial identifiers issued for purposes of consistently identifying the individual. These include government-issued identifiers such as a Social Security Number, as well as identifiers issued by a Web site or service.
Upload - Copying or sending files or data from one computer to another. A Web developer, for example, could upload a document to a Web server. (See also "Download")
URL - (Uniform Resource Locator) - The World Wide Web address of a site on the Internet. The URL for the Internal Revenue Service, for example, is http://www.irs.gov. (See also "Domain name")
Virtual Private Network (VPN) - A network that uses public wires, such as the Internet, to connect to nodes and transport data. A VPN uses encryption and other security mechanisms to ensure that there is no unauthorized access to the network and no possibility of interception of data.
Virus - A program that is loaded onto your computer unbeknownst to you. Viruses can make copies of themselves, quickly using up all available memory. Some viruses can transmit themselves across networks.
Web - The World Wide Web. An Internet system to distribute graphical, hyper-linked information, based on the hypertext transfer protocol (HTTP). The World Wide Web is also known as WWW or W3. The Web is not synonymous with the Internet; rather, it is just one service on the Internet. Other services on the Internet include Internet Relay Chat and Newsgroups. The Web is accessed through use of a browser.
Web-based chat - Chat rooms that are found in Web sites, which allow people to chat with each other using their browsers. Another kind of chat room, Internet Relay Chat (IRC), requires additional software. (See also "Chat room," and "IRC")
Web-based instant-messaging - Instant-messaging technology that works in Web sites, as opposed to that provided by commercial online services. (See also "Instant messaging")
Whitelist - A list of 'good' email addresses or Web sites. Some filters are/can be configured to only accept email or allow access to Web sites from the whitelist. A whitelist can also be used to create exceptions to the rules that filter out "bad" addresses and sites.
WWW - The World Wide Web. (See also "Web")