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OPLIN 4cast #340: Search engine privacy

Posted in 4cast

security cameraThe recent revelation of the National Security Agency’s PRISM program, which the U.S. government has used to access people’s phone and Internet search data, has caused a lot of outrage worldwide in the last couple of weeks. As long as a year ago, a Pew Internet & American Life survey found that almost three out of four people felt that search engine tracking of their searches was an invasion of privacy, and the news that massive amounts of this search data are being shared with the government must surely have increased people’s anti-tracking sentiment. And indeed, there has been an increase in the use of search engines and other Internet tools that do not track user data. But on the other hand, those personalized search results are so convenient.…

  • Simple ways to enhance your Internet privacy (CNET/Dennis O’Reilly) “Who’s tracking you? Besides the government, every Internet service you’ve ever used, nearly every Web site you’ve ever visited, and nearly every advertiser who’s ever bought space on a page you viewed, nobody in particular. Did I mention the people who developed the software you use? They may be keeping tabs on your activities, too.”
  • DuckDuckGo search engine founder touts privacy for users (MyNorthwest/Alyssa Kleven) “Google saves your searches, but [DuckDuckGo founder Gabriel] Weinberg says it’s a myth that they use that search history to target ads at you while you’re on Over 99 percent of Google’s advertising, according to Weinberg, comes from the keywords you type in as you search. Then, the data saved is used on Google’s other websites, like Gmail or YouTube. Or, in some of these cases as we’re learning, it’s getting in the hands of the National Security Agency.”
  • Duck Duck Go’s post-PRISM growth actually proves no one cares about “private” search (Search Engine Land/Danny Sullivan) “Google has little to worry about. People don’t care about search privacy, and Duck Duck Go’s growth demonstrates this. Don’t get me wrong. If you ask people about search privacy, they’ll respond that it’s a major issue.… But if you look at what people actually do, virtually none of them make efforts to have more private search. Duck Duck Go’s growth is an excellent case study to prove this. Despite it growing, it’s not grown anywhere near the amount to reflect any substantial or even mildly notable switching by the searching public.”
  • The anonymous Internet: Privacy tools grow in popularity following NSA revelations (Time/Victor Luckerson) “Anonymization does have its drawbacks. DuckDuckGo isn’t as adept as Google at anticipating what you’re looking for before you type it. Using Cryptocat means convincing friends to also download the program instead of just logging onto Facebook or Gmail. Tor has been known to attract illicit activity.…”

Numbers fact:
DuckDuckGo tweeted that it is now performing over 2 million searches a day, and StartPage and Ixquick reported that they are performing a combined 3.5 million searches a day. By comparison, Google performs more than 400 million searches a day.