Sweeping away a search history

Apr 07 2014, 15:42 IST
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SummaryHere are services that will allow you to search online without compromising your privacy

still involve making money from search-related ads.

DuckDuckGo collects no personally identifying information (like your I.P. address) as you search and doesn’t save any search history that can be tied to you. But DuckDuckGo still makes money on ads. “It’s a myth that the search engines need to track to you to make most of their money in web search,” Weinberg said. “Most of the search ads are based on the queries you type in and have nothing to do with your search history.”

DuckDuckGo said its searches more than doubled from 2012 to 2013 to over a billion queries a year. That is tiny compared with Google (100 billion searches a month) or even Bing or Yahoo, but the growth demonstrates a real interest in private searching. Other options include PrivateLee, Qrobe.it and IxQuick, which is based in the Netherlands.

Using DuckDuckGo or another private engine takes a little getting used to. DuckDuckGo doesn’t autocomplete search terms, for example, but PrivateLee does. They obviously don’t filter results on the basis of your past searches, either. The results may seem a little strange as a result.

If you are partial to Google, Bing or Yahoo as a search engine but want it to be anonymous, try Disconnect Search.

The web version lets you specify Google, Bing, Yahoo, DuckDuckGo or Blekko as your engine, but it searches them without sharing your Internet address or saving a search history.

You can also install Disconnect Search as a plug-in for the Chrome or Firefox browsers, so you don’t have to remember to go to the site. There is an Android app available, but none for Apple’s iOS. Disconnect also offers other privacy tools that block ad tracking in browsers and on iOS.

Disconnect Search isn’t perfect. For one thing, it forces all search searches into whatever search engine you have set as your default. So if you are clicking search links on the Yahoo home page, you won’t end up in Yahoo’s search, you will end up in your default.

It also can’t handle Google Maps links. If you click a link to a Google Maps location from a website, for example, you will be taken to a search result for that address, rather than the map.

So why do all of this? If you have been wondering why eerily specific ads keep showing up on every site you visit, in your email, on Facebook or anywhere else you go online, it’s

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