The year 1984 has come and gone. National ID cards are talked about. Some cities have cameras throughout the downtown area to monitor for criminal activity. How much privacy do we need? And what can you do to protect your privacy? Only visit sites which provide a clear-cut statement indicating they will respect your privacy, which safeguard any information you choose to provide, and which only ask for information necessary to take care of you. Take a look at the Privacy Partnership for more ideas. Also, the Better Business Bureau has the BBBOnline Privacy Program which companies may subscribe to.
In the area of personal privacy, try this self-assessment; see if you're really as safe as you think you are.
Spyware! Yes, unless you're very careful, you too have spyware lurking in the depths of your computer, sending back data about you to some vendor you may not have ever heard of. Spyware cleaners are available which address this problem reasonably well. A spyware cleaner is like a virus cleaner: you run it periodically, but instead of detecting viruses, it detects spyware and allows you to safely remove it. Note that not all spyware is malicious; some programs which you have chosen to use that display ads frequently use spyware to serve you the advertisements. If you use a spyware cleaner to remove their component's, the program which needed it may no longer work.
The cream of the crop in spyware cleaners is PepiMK Software's Spybot, which won PC Magazine'sEditors' Choice Award 2003. Another good one is LavaSoft's Ad-Aware; this won PC World'sBest Software Product 2002, though it fared not as well in the 2003 review from PC Magazine.
Another tool which complements those above is Spychecker, a web-based tool that allows you to check whether any particular product uses spyware before you download and install the product in question.