Citizens Advice Bureaux take confidentiality very seriously and we make every effort to ensure that any information remains private.
There are many myths surrounding security on the web, but for most people the risks are minimal. It is extremely unlikely that unauthorised people will intercept your e-mail, and in the event that someone does read your e-mail it is often very difficult for anyone else (except the e-mail provider) to link it to your real world identity.
In reality your identity is most likely to be compromised by people accessing your computer either at home or in the office.
E-mail correspondence is comparable in some respects with sending a post card, when the card is waiting to be posted those around you have an opportunity to read it, and if you send it from a large office the post room can read it. Once it is posted it could still be read by workers in the post office if they wanted to, but considering the amount they deal with they are unlikely to be that interested. In the same way the reply to your message is most vulnerable when the 'postcard' is laying around waiting for you to read it.
If no one else has access to your 'post' then this is not a problem, otherwise you may wish to use the web equivalent of a P.O. box, which is Web mail. This is where you collect your mail from your Web mail. provider.
The sites that you visit (including this one) are recorded in the browser, this can be dealt with by clearing the history trail in your browser, this is particularly important is you are sharing the use of a browser such as in an Internet cafe when it is advisable to close the browser after use.
The exact procedure varies between browsers so you may need to use your help files.
When you visit a site a copy of the page is usually stored on your computer. This copy includes any images that were on the site that you visited.
Unless you change the settings on your browser you will find that the images from all the sites that you visited in the past month are still on your computer, which could amount to thousands of images. Under UK law you can be charged for 'creating' these images if they are of a pornographic nature. If you are using a computer in the workplace this evidence could also be used when investigating whether you are following your employer's policy regarding internet use.
If you share your e-mail system with others in the home or office then you may prefer to use one of the many Web mail. systems. These allow you to access your mail from any computer when online, and do not usually store files on your computer.
The advantages of this option need to be balanced against the fact that you will be reliant upon the Web mail. provider keeping your information secure.
For security reasons replies will be returned via the e-mail 'reply' function to the originating e-mail address.
Because of the inability to identify an actual person with an e-mail address we rely on the identity of the e-mail address to ensure that any reply we send or follow-up enquiry is sent to the correct person. This means that if you need to clarify your enquiry you must use the same e-mail address as otherwise we cannot assume that we are dealing with the same person.
If other people have access to the computer you are using, then this will be where your privacy is at most risk. If you are using an office system then copies of e-mail may be kept either on your computer or on a network server. If you wish to avoid this happening then consider using Web mail.