De-Google Yourself

28 Dec. 2010 General

Let me start this article with Eric Schmidt’s (CEO of Google) view on privacy

If you have something that you don’t want anyone to know, maybe you shouldn’t be doing it in the first place. But if you really need that kind of privacy, the reality is that search engines, including Google, do retain this information for some time. And […] we’re all subject, in the US, to the Patriot Act, and it is possible that that information could be made available to the authorities.

Schmidt’s reply hints that if there’s scandalous information out there about you, it’s your problem, not Google’s.

For many people, using Google is synonymous with using the Internet itself. That need not or shouldn’t be.

If you’re like most internet users, Google knows more about you than you might be comfortable with. Whether you were logged in to 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. Thanks to things like Google Analytics, they even know which websites you visited that you didn’t reach through Google. If you use Gmail, they know the content of every email you’ve ever sent or received, whether you’ve deleted it or not. They know who your friends are, where you live, where you work, and where you spend your free time. They know about your health, your love life, and your political leanings. These days they are even branching out into collecting your real-time GPS location and your DNS lookups. In short, not only do they know a lot about what you’re doing, they also have significant insight into what you’re thinking.

A new trend has started where users have started to de-Google themselves. The main reason behind this is that these users do not want search engine companies to control their private data and share it in public.

There are few users who have de-Google themselves using below tools

E-mail: It is very hard to let go of Gmail, its wonderful conversation threading and spam filter, but it is possible. For a meager you get your own custom domain name at $6 a year. Then, it comes to the email hosting account at $24 a year. You can run multiple email clients like Horde Squirrel-Mail, or Round-cube. Rackspace also provides their own web & desktop email and calendar services for $2 a month.

Another important aspect is to make sure that none of your activities are being tracked while you are online. There are various ways to achieving this. First, you could use the private browsing mode on Firefox, IE and Chrome. You could also get extensions that disable any third party tracking like Disconnect.

Search: I have set up all my browsers to search through Scroogle over SSL, part of this is privacy at work and part of it is because Scroogle’s results page is much cleaner than Google’s. I encourage everyone to check it out who doesn’t want their search strings to be statistically correlated. For example, site Duck Duck Go to be my new buddy: it is even more accurate than Google at certain cases.

So does it mean that I hate Google? Not at all. Do I hate people you use Google’s products? Of course not! I encourage anyone interested in privacy to maybe look into switching to some different tools.

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