Under surveillance

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Q: I work for a small company. Each day I check my personal e-mail. I spend about five minutes online. Can my employer access my personal e-mail or track my use?
–B. Shacklett, Indianapolis

A: The short answer is yes. Most employers monitor their employees’ use of the Internet on some level. Some employ sophisticated software to track which sites an employee visits and how long they stay there.

However, even if your boss isn’t monitoring which sites you visit, your browser is. Each browser has what’s called a cache, a folder that keeps snippets of information–like the Web address of each site you visit. Ostensibly, this was done to make it easier for the browser to find the page the next time you visited and update site changes automatically.

You can change this, however. If you’re using Internet Explorer, select Tools/Internet Options from the pull-down menu. On the General tab, under Temporary Internet Files, select Settings/View Files. This will show you all the Websites you’ve visited. You can delete those. You can also reduce the size of the cache on the same tab. Once you’re done, return to the General tab, select History, and under Days to keep pages in History, type 0. Then select Clear History. Internet Explorer will not keep a record in its cache folder and will keep only a history of each session. If you use Netscape, you’ll find a similar feature:

Edit/Preferences/Advanced/Cache. And remember: Never save your password on the company PC. If you do, anyone using that PC can easily access your e-mail.