If you want to protect your personal information or email address from abuse, you should indeed read web sites' privacy policies. These policies explain how a web site will use your personal information and whether, for example, it will share your data with third parties. Also, the policies should explain how you can "opt out" of having your data shared or collected. Well-written policies also detail what steps you can take if you feel your information has been compromised or misused. And beware of sites that don't have privacy policies prominently posted. It's a sign they don't take your privacy -- or protecting it -- seriously.
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