Privacy appears to be kind of a “personal thing” and some of my readers are more upset than others about the recent policy changes at Google. To be fair, it’s not just Google but the whole prying Internet experience that gives some the creeps. As I said last week, one way to look at the loss of privacy is as a cost/benefit proposition. You have to decide for yourself if the service offered or the convenience afforded is worth the incremental loss in privacy on a situation by situation basis.
What’s the big deal about tracking my web surfing you may ask? Such data mining (as it’s called) can reveal a startling amount of personal information about you, such as your personal shopping preferences, family circumstances, political leanings, medical conditions, and much more. These are the tamer tidbits; what if you have an interest in an unpopular subject or some other pursuit that you don’t want to share with all?
How can you express your displeasure with Google’s new privacy policies? One way might be to stop using their flagship enterprise for a while and see if decreased traffic gets their attention. I’m talking about not using the world’s number one search engine for a period, namely Google. The venerable and ubiquitous Google search engine is their pride and joy and namesake. It’s at the heart of their brand. Mind you, I’m not trying to start a boycott, just answering your question about how to voice your displeasure.
Naturally you’ll want a substitute search engine and I’ll suggest a couple. One that continues to make a splash on tech news sites is called DuckDuckGo, started by Gabriel Weinberg. This little, would be giant killer has grown to the point of receiving about a million visits per day. Startpage by ixquick is another site that is on the leading edge of this privacy issue. They make this claim on their Home Page, “ Startpage, and its sister search engine Ixquick, are the only third-party certified search engines in the world that do not record your IP address or track your searches.” If that gives you comfort, give them a try.
Privacy is a very important and complicated issue and should not be taken lightly. The ultimate invasion of privacy as in identity theft can be a life changing experience and take years and lots of money to recover. Remember that you are exposed not just while web surfing, but whenever you are on a social network like Facebook or Twitter. Whenever data about you is being collected and stored, in whatever venue; there is risk that your data can be leaked by incompetence, by accident or purposely stolen.
If you want more information or have other questions, start with sites like privacy rights.org or worldprivacyforum.org. Dare I say Google them? Find their websites with whatever degree of privacy you deem appropriate. Till next week, be alert and send your questions to: