August 11, 2012, 7:35 AM — Editors note: The following review is part of MacworldsGemFest 2012 series. Every weekday from mid June through mid August, the Macworld staff will use the Mac Gems blog to briefly cover a favorite free or low-cost program. Visit the Mac Gems homepage for a list of past Mac Gems.
All Web surfers knowor should knowthat even though they often use the Internet in the privacy of their homes, they are not alone. The Web, while a window to the universe, is also a conduit for transmitting private and personal information to prying eyes. Marketers track your every move with a variety of digital markers, such as cookies, Web Bugs, or clear GIFs. Family members and associates who share your computer also can view information that youd rather keep to yourself, such as Internet searches, websites youve visited, or videos youve watched. Of course, you could use the Safari or Firefox built-in Private Browsing mode or simply remove information, piece by piece, but the latter would be a time-consuming and labor-intensive process.
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SecureMacs PrivacyScan (Mac App Store link), which debuted at Macworld|iWorld 2012, offers a one-stop way to mitigate common privacy concerns by identifying and destroying Internet files placed on your computer that track your usage and reveal your online activities to others. You can choose to erase information from a number of programs simultaneously, and then choose the level of destruction youre most comfortable with. Time is the tradeoff; The more securely the information is destroyed, the longer the process takes.
A nice byproduct of using PrivacyScan is that it has the potential of slimming down your Mac by clearing your hard drive of extraneous, space-hogging files.
PrivacyScan supports a range of browsers and apps, including Camino, Chrome, Firefox, Flock, iCab, OmniWeb, Opera, Safari, SeaMonkey, and Shiira. It also targets potential privacy invaders like Flash Cookies and native Mac apps such as the Finder, Preview, and QuickTime.
Nothing could be easier than running a scan. Launching the app reveals all the supported applications you have on your hard drive. You use the setup assistant to specify which privacy issues you want the app to concentrate on; These issues include browsing history, cache, cookies, download history, form values, last session information, recent searches, webpage icons, Web storage, and DOM storage. When you hit the Scan button, the program displays scan resultsa list of all the items it intends to clean. You can still change your mind about any of them before clicking the Trash icon to execute the cleanup.
Even after your first scan, those choices are not set in stone. You can tweak these settings anytime in the programs preferences. Every time you run the program, you check which apps you want scanned, and then click the arrow button to initiate the scan. According to SecureMac, PrivacyScans most secure shredding goes above and beyond United States Department of Defense deletion standards by overwriting files with up to 35 passes. With regular cleaning, files get about seven passes.