A US$20 program can help users sweep up the footprints they leave when they travel around the World Wide Web. The software, NSClean, is the handiwork of a programmer and an electronics engineer who responded to friends' concerns that Netscape's Navigator browser keeps a record of Web sites, file names and even copies of downloaded text and graphics on the hard drive.
Although demand for the product has prompted sales to users in the US, Canada, Norway, Sweden, South Africa and the Czech Republic, one of the creators acknowledges that the "Big Brother" threat isn't that great. "I'm not paranoid myself, but I know a lot of people who are and this basically makes them happy," says Kevin McAleavey of Albany, New York. "I'm a satisfied Netscape user, and I hold no angst towards Netscape. Network administrators have real jobs to do, and tracking after users is not a priority," says McAleavey, a former network administrator.
Meanwhile, Netscape security director Jeff Treuhaft has welcomed NSClean to the market. "We're certainly looking to encourage folks to address the needs of small portions of the population that have specific requests that we're not able to deliver," Treuhaft says.
NSClean allows users to selectively empty Navigator-stored files on their hard drives and restore them to the state they were in when the browser was first installed. Those six files include the following:
-- Bookmark settings.
-- The URL window list of the 10 sites visited most recently.
-- A directory that stores a list of news group sites visited and the numbers of the specific messages read.
-- The "cookies" file list, where user information is stored and accessed by Web servers for determining user profiles for things such as Web page customisation and online shopping.
-- A history database that serves as a record of online activities that lists URL and file names of every Web site visited and names of documents saved for reading off line, as well as documents on intranet servers that are viewed through the browser.
-- Disk cache containing HTML documents read online, as well as text and graphics files from Web pages viewed.
"I saw one guy at a business who had 55Mb wasted in his cache file," McAleavey says.
McAleavey is planning to develop a version of NSClean for use on the Macintosh and Windows 95, as well as for Internet Explorer.
A demo of NSClean is available at http://www.shareware.com using the search keyword "privacy" as well as from http://www.wizvax.net/kevinmca/ and http://www.simtel.net/pub/simtelnet/win3/inet/ns-demo2.zip.
See IS worries