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Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Making Anonymous, Private Google Searches

Even though Google is taking steps to improve user privacy by reducing the expiration date of cookies from 2038 to two years and anonymizing server logs after 18 months, the popular search engine may still threaten your online privacy.

Each time you conduct a Google search, Google logs your IP address, the time, your search query, and ID number of the cookie it sends to your browser. This information can be traced directly back to you within 18 months of your search (after that, Google says it will anonymize all the information).

One way to keep Google from finding out what you are searching for it to use a site like Googlonymous, which conducts the search for you and claims not to keep any records. Your IP address is kept hidden.

Another way to hide what you're really searching for it to use TrackMeNot, a Firefox extension that conducts random Google searches. This way, Google has no idea which search is genuine and can't build up a profile based on your search history. In this case, your IP address isn't hidden, but your real searches are hidden in a mass of random search queries.


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