Sunday, January 19, 2014

Anonymous search engines?

Recently I have seen a lot of questions on the use of anonymous search engines or non-tracking search engines. These "anonymous" search engines don't collect user data like Google, Bing and most other search engines so people have a feeling of anonymity when using them. That sound great but it's a false feeling of anonymity. Here are a few things to always keep in mind when you are using the internet.

Just because the search engine you are using does not store your search records like how Google stores them does not mean that you are anonymously searching the internet. Same goes for 'do not track' features in browsers. Just because the browser does not store your internet history or blocks websites from "following" your surfing behavior does not mean you are invisible! You may be a little more secure but you are far from anonymous.

Invisible? Not on the internet! Invisibility on the internet is a big myth. Privacy on the internet is also a myth. Nothing you type in any search engine is actually private and while not perfect, Google and Bing are the best search engines. Period. "Anonymous" search engines still log and store your searches because they have to. If they didn't then when you searched for something the results that came back would just be to random websites. All search engines use a search algorithm and that requires storing your search information. You can be a bit more secure from the people around you finding out what you have been up to, maybe, but the word private is a bunch of BS. Everything you do online is logged by some server, somewhere. You can't get around that!

Are you considering using an anonymous search engine for something illegal? All it takes is a court order and these 'private' search engines have the ability to turn over search records. I guarantee it! It does take a court order (as far as I know) for anyone to obtain search records so like the saying goes. Don't do anything wrong or illegal and you don't have anything to worry about.

So, anonymous isn't the right word. Secure is a better word because you are never anonymous when you are using the internet. Google, Bing and many others make a lot of money from advertising and logging search information is one way they target ads at us. They don't much care about your name and address. What they really want is to get people to click on ads and spend money. I would also venture to say that the tracking your ISP does on you is much more to worry about then what Google or Bing is doing. But that's just me.

The internet was never meant to be private. It's an important fact that has largely been forgotten or ignored over time but the public internet or World Wide Web was created and marketed around the ability to publicly SHARE information, not hide it.

The internet can be a fun, productive and meaningful experience. Think first and don't do anything stupid or illegal while online or offline. Have fun, be safe and always use a good antivirus. 

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