Most of us don’t search for instructions on how to build bombs or uranium enrichment, but if you did out of curiosity would you find a government agent at your doorstep one day? It could happen easier than you think. After all the government has been trying to gain more and more access to private information without having to first obtain search warrants.
Under the mission of “More Precise Ad Targeting” Google has created the most incredible spying machine that has ever existed on the face of the planet. They have recorded everything you have ever searched for and attached it to your IP address. In addition, if you use google adwords, gmail or other personalized services they have also added your complete information profile into the mix. I have been using Google Toolbar, Google Adwords for years and Gmail in the past, so all my online activities are neatly compiled in a Google database somewhere.
My question is: Why do they need to store this information indefinitely?
Do they intend to use it for something in the future? Or do they just want to learn every possible insight into human behavior so they can use it to make more money? In my opinion it makes an incredibly inviting source of data for any government agency on a witch hunt!
The truth is that many of us plug things into the search engines that we hear on the news just out of sheer curiosity. I know I’ve searched for information on Meth and other things just to find out more about what it was, not because I wanted to cook up a batch. To a DEA agent however, anyone who has searched for how meth is made could be a potential “cooker”! Yikes!!
What Can You Do To Keep From Being Tracked When Using Search Engines?
I’ve started using something called Scroogle. It is a neat little appliance that has been developed independently and can be used to search either Google or Yahoo anonymously, without all the tracking and absent the ads. In fact, if you were among the first to use Google when it was introduced it will seem like the good old days!
It uses an anonymous IP address to complete your search and logs are deleted within 48 hours. That’s actually how all search engines should operate!
How Scroogle Works:
So In A Nutshell…
Scroogle.org is a screen-scraping proxy for the Google search engine that circumvents Google’s tracking of user activity via cookies and/or IP address. The site also allows users to perform Google searches without receiving Google advertisements. A Yahoo scraper is included. There is support for 28 languages, and Mozilla offers a Scroogle plugin for the Firefox search bar. Scroogle is operated by Google critic Daniel Brandt, who also runs the Google Watch website.
Here is the Scroogle search page…..Try it out for yourself!
For more information go to Scroogle.org
TrackMeNot is a lightweight browser extension that helps protect web searchers from surveillance and data-profiling by search engines. It does so not by means of concealment or encryption (i.e. covering one’s tracks like scroogle), but instead, paradoxically, by the opposite strategy: noise and obfuscation. With TrackMeNot, actual web searches, lost in a cloud of false leads, are essentially hidden in plain view. User-installed TrackMeNot works with the Firefox Browser and popular search engines (AOL, Yahoo!, Google, and MSN) and requires no 3rd-party servers or services.
How It Works
TrackMeNot runs in Firefox as a low-priority background process that periodically issues randomized search-queries to popular search engines, e.g., AOL, Yahoo!, Google, and MSN. It hides users’ actual search trails in a cloud of ‘ghost’ queries, significantly increasing the difficulty of aggregating such data into accurate or identifying user profiles. As of version 0.4, TMN’s static word list has been replaced with a dynamic query mechanism which ‘evolves’ each client (uniquely) over time, parsing the results of its searches for ‘logical’ future query terms with which to replace those already used.
So In A Nutshell…
TrackMeNot submits semi random searches in the background to google from a dynamic word list. Your real searches are then obscured in the noise generated by track me not. This means the data Google have collected on you is effectively worthless as it is noise, not data, this means it is not worth collecting. If enough people use tools like Track Me Not the search engines will give up on the expense of storing huge quantities of random data for no profit very quickly.
For more information on TrackMeNot got to http://mrl.nyu.edu/~dhowe/trackmenot/
Update 02/09/2007: Criticisms of TrackMeNot
TrackMeNot may actually make it easier for search engines to link your searches together (the fact that you’re using a plugin is distinctive). Moreover, although it may create some uncertainty about aspects of your search history, it does not hide personally identifying information or the bulk of your most sensitive searches. For further criticisms, see http://www.schneier.com/blog/archives/2006/08/trackmenot_1.html.
Ixquick is a unique search engine provider that deletes the personal data of all users. For more information on this search engine click here
If you too feel strongly about the way that companies like google retain records of individual’s personal data and know any other ways to avoid being tracked, please post in the comments below. Thanks
Original Source: Access 2 Privacy.com