The thing is, if you use the Internet frequently, your personal privacy is a myth. Most of the websites you are visiting store your data, log your behavior and even keep track of what you are doing before and after visiting some particular URL. There’s no escape. But if you want to hide your traces from at least the largest offenders, this post may suggest some existing ways for you to do that.
Here are the two most popular tools used to prevent Google from tracking and recording your search behavior. Please bear in mind that neither of them are perfect – be sure to thoroughly go through the ”Issues” sections.
1. Track Me Not
(Compatible with: Firefox, Firefox 4, Google Chrome)
Because the Web has grown into such a crucial repository of information and our search behaviors profoundly reflect who we are, what we care about, and how we live our lives, there is reason to feel they should be off-limits to arbitrary surveillance.
Track Me Not was created as a simple information security software that hides all of your data in plain sight. It doesn’t actually keep search engines from seeing your searches, but instead it creates a large field of ‘ghost’ searches, which overwhelms the trackers. Since your actual search history is lost in a sea of other searches, the engines will find themselves unable to create an accurate profile of your search activity.
How It Works
Track Me Not is on by default. It displays the current query term sent to search engines in the status bar, on the right side of the icon. The icon also allows you to configure the tool settings and see the full list of queries being sent to the search engines.
The addon is simple to use, and doesn’t need any third-party software or add-ons to work. This already boosts it above most alternatives, which require an additional proxy.
The problem with products like this is that they don’t have the capabilities of the large search engines. We are talking about some of the biggest and wealthiest companies in the world. They are adaptable, and employ some of the best minds in the industry. It isn’t a leap to think that they can filter TrackMeNot results using a basic analytic tracking code.
You will also have to frequently delete your cache and cookies as it builds more information in simple searches than you ever could on your own. You might also find yourself having to fill in endless CAPTCHA’s (those annoying letter/number boxes on websites) to prove you aren’t a bot, based on how many queries will be flooding the search engine.
2. Google Sharing
(Compatible with: Firefox 3.0 – 3.6.)
Google thrives where privacy does not. If you’re like most internet users, Google knows more about you than you might be comfortable with. Whether you were logged into a Google account or not, they know everything you’ve ever searched for, what search results you clicked on, what news you read, and every place you’ve ever gotten directions to.
Google Sharing works as a custom proxy that runs in the background of the browser. The idea behind it is interesting. It basically takes all of our information, mixes it together, and then sends it on its way.
In the end, Google will still get all of the search data that it normally would, but because it is all being jammed together, it is next to impossible to create a profile on any individual user. Trends are harder to assess, and so it offers a certain amount of privacy. Everything is filtered through an ‘identity’ created by the proxy, as it watches for Google requests from Firefox.
How It Works
GoogleSharing is on by default. You can disable it from the status bar. There’s not much to configure in it. You can only add/edit the proxy server used.
If you are already concerned with your search behavior being logged by Google, chances are this tool won’t make you feel safer. The idea that all your search history is being saved by a third-party tool and then used in some way is a bit alarming.
Are there any other similar tools that prevent Google from creating a user’s complete profile? Or do you think tools like these are ultimately pointless? Please share your thoughts!
Image source: stayofsearch