In the last five years, privacy has grown into a major concern for anyone using the internet. When Edward Snowden, and other organizations, released information regarding how companies and the NSA, are tracking citizens, privacy became an even bigger issue. People have turned to many tools to protect themselves and their information. Among these, private search engines have seen an increase in traffic recently.
In May 2017 privacy-based search engine Search Encrypt’s Alexa Ranking was 13,000 (the 13000th most visited website globally). Now, Search Encrypt‘s global ranking is 2,400. In the U.S. Search Encrypt is ranked 595. Another popular private search engine, DuckDuckGo, increased their rank from 470 in May up to 343 now. This increase in traffic for private search tools means that people are getting serious about protecting their personal data.
PRIVATE SEARCH ENGINES
Private search tools, like Search Incognito, have a different business model than big search engines. It’s a shame that Google and Bing feel that they have to track users to have success. Search Incognito and other privacy-based search engines don’t track users and their information. Privacy and search engines can exist in unison, despite the popular belief that they can’t.
Google uses your internet use data to serve you “meaningful ads”. When it serves these ads, is Google really helping you? It seems more likely that these ads just encourage you to buy products that you probably don’t need.
HOW DO PRIVATE SEARCH ENGINES MAKE MONEY?
Most secure or private search tools make money through ads and affiliate revenue. Search Incognito does not serve ads based on your past searches, but displays ads based on your current search term. We don’t store any of your personal information or use it to target you with ads.
Because we have a different business model, we can deliver a more user-focused product. Google emphasizes positive user experiences and sells users on tailoring their web experiences. However, Google benefits from the huge amounts of data they get. Because privacy based products don’t share or track this, we’re able to focus more on making our search engine user-friendly.
DIGITAL PRIVACY & DATA SECURITY
So much of the internet relies on trust between companies and consumers. However, in many cases companies share very little on how they collect, use and store your information. People can choose to keep hoping that Google will only use their data in ethical ways. But, there are no guarantees that this will happen. Another concern is how Google stores this information. While they are obligated to store it in a secure way, hacks could jeopardize huge amounts of information. Search Incognito believes that users will be better off if this data is never even stored in the first place.
Too many people allow Google to convince them that sharing data is necessary to have good web experiences. We believe that if more websites and companies used products with full privacy by design, the internet would improve across the board. In the meantime, use these “8 Ways to Protect Your Digital Privacy” to avoid many issues.
Search Engine Giants Know Way More Than You Probably Knew
Search engines are unique because they have become a near-necessity for anyone browsing the web. Despite internet users making more than 6.5 billion searches per day across all search engines, most people are in the dark about how they actually work.
While people browsing the web are simply looking for information, or a certain webpage, Google uses all the data from these searches and internet use to understand people’s behavior. Although Google makes it clear that they encrypt your data for security and privacy, the fact that the data is transmitted at all makes many people uneasy.
What is Search Privacy?
Want to see something creepy? Click around in your Google History and look at the information that Google tracks. Not only will you see anything you’ve ever searched for, you will see all the places you’ve ever been signed into Google. This includes your drive to work in the morning, and that’s just the beginning.
With that mountain of information, Google can tell a lot about you: where you live, your hobbies, age, health problems, religion and more.
In October 2016, ProPublicareported that Google quietly got rid of its ban on combining online ad tracking with users’ names. Prior to this change, Google kept information like users’ names and Gmail addresses separate from browsing and search information.
Cookie ID — This cookie is deposited in your browse and allows search engines to uniquely identify your computer.
How Should You Protect Search Privacy?
Choose Your ISP Carefully
Most ISPs (internet service providers) harvest user data. A group of smaller providers recently wrote a letter opposing the changes in the FCC’s privacy rules allowing ISPs to harvest and sell this data. Do some research to determine how your provider uses your data. Unfortunately, many people are stuck with only one or two choices for broadband providers.
ISPs, along with search engines, hope to use the data they acquire to reach customers with more targeted advertisements. Ars Technica explains that ISPs want to become “advertising powerhouses,” on the same level as Google and Facebook.
Use A VPN
VPN, or virtual private networks, allow you to connect to the internet through a remote (or virtual) server. As a result, the data sent between your device and this server is securely encrypted. Using a VPN gives you privacy by hiding your internet behavior from both your ISP and any other group that may be tracking your browsing information. These also work to access blocked websites, that you otherwise wouldn’t be able to get to due to internet filters at school or work.
There are quite a few solid options out there for VPNs. They typically cost between $5–10 per month. It can be handy to have a VPN, though, if you need to remotely access a server or a website that isn’t available, while travelling.
Which Search Engines Protect Privacy?
Many of these search engines actually use results from the search giants, like Google, Yahoo, or Bing. Rather than allowing these search engines to track your searches, they encrypt your data to keep your searches private. These privacy-centric search engines don’t log your IP address or any of your searches.
These search engines simply have a different business model than other search engines. Rather than making money by selling data, these engines profit from ads displayed on their site or affiliate marketing sales.
DuckDuckGo is probably the most well-known alternative search engine. Its CEO, Gabriel Weinberg, said, “if the FBI comes to us, we have nothing to tie back to you.” Searches are sourced mostly from Yahoo. One cool feature of DuckDuckGo is what it calls “bangs”. Users can directly search other sites, like Amazon, Wikipedia, Yelp or Youtube, by starting their query with an exclamation mark!
Search Incognito protects your privacy by detecting searches that may be tracked and tied to your personal information. It intercepts those searches and redirects them to Search Incognito’s privacy-enhanced search engine which will be set to your default search engine. Search Incognito is supported by sponsored ads featured on our search results page.
Search Encrypt is unique because, while you can use it as a “normal” search engine, it changes how other search engines work. If you want to use Google as your search engine, you can do so with Search Encrypt. Installed as a browser extension, it automatically avoids any searches that may track you. It redirects your search to its own results page that is completely secure so your search stays private. Search Encrypt encrypts your searches locally that even your browser history will expire after 15 minutes.
StartPage uses results from Google, which is a good thing if you prefer Google’s result without the tracking. Ixquick, which is an independent search engine that uses its own results, developed StartPage to include results from Google. Its features include a proxy service, URL generator, and HTTPS support. The URL generator is a unique feature that eliminates the need for cookies. It remembers your settings in a privacy friendly way.
Beyond these, there are many “privacy-based” search engines out there that work well. A quick Google (or, uh…DuckDuckGo) search should turn up a good list.
Search Engine Privacy Issues
People working on the security side of technology recognize that the security tech realm isn’t where it should be. Much of the sensitive data that is stored is stored forever, even though it may no longer be useful or relevant.
The majority of our communication data now is tracked in some way. If this information is always available, some one is always at risk of having confidential data leaked or hacked. Search engine data falls victim to the same risks.
Most search engines use individual tracking. This means they track information about your internet usage and other behaviors. Although search engines may encrypt your data on their side, someone with access to your computer could still find information.
Another issue with search engine privacy is the sheer volume of data each must process. Google processes over 3.5 billion searches per day. If just .01% of the search data is compromised, that equates to 350,000 searches. In terms of big (enormous) data, 99.99% is not good enough.
In the ongoing discussion of Apple vs The FBI, it is no surprise that people are taking sides. So who is in Apple’s corner and who is backing the FBI? Here are some of the most interesting opinions:
Apple Engineers: “Among the secretive, almost religious community of expert security engineers, breaking your own encryption is seen as shameful and unholy.” Read More
Tim Cook, Apple CEO: In another open letter today, Apple says: “Yes, it is certainly possible to create an entirely new operating system to undermine our security features as the government wants. But it’s something we believe is too dangerous to do. The only way to guarantee that such a powerful tool isn’t abused and doesn’t fall into the wrong hands is to never create it.” Read The Open Letter
Glenn Beck, Conservative Talk Show Host: “This is insanity. Apple should NOT hack or develop a back door or key as it will put ALL iphones at risk.”
Facebook: The government’s demands “create a chilling precedent and obstruct companies’ efforts to secure their products.” The social media giant reinforced that it does comply with lawful requests from authorities, but “will continue to fight aggressively against requirements for companies to weaken the security of their systems.”
Twitter,via Twitter: “We stand with @tim_cook and Apple.”
Sundar Pinchai, CEO, Google: “Forcing companies to enable hacking could compromise users’ privacy. We build secure products to keep your information safe and we give law enforcement access to data based on valid legal orders. But that’s wholly different than requiring companies to enable hacking of customer devices & data.”
Carol Adams (Mother who lost son in San Bernardino shooting) “This is what separates us from communism, isn’t it? The fact we have the right to privacy,” said Adams. “I think Apple is definitely within their rights to protect the privacy of all Americans. This is what makes America great to begin with, that we abide by a Constitution that gives us the right of privacy, the right to bear arms, and the right to vote.”
Edward Snowden, via Twitter: “The @FBI is creating a world where citizens rely on #Apple to defend their rights, rather than the other way around.”
Mark Cuban, Shark Tank: “Amen. A standing ovation. They did the exact right thing… Encryption is easy. It is like wearing a seatbelt in your car. For years we didn’t. Then we did and it was smart.”
John Mcafee, Legend: “I’ll decrypt the San Bernardino phone free of charge so Apple doesn’t need to place a back door on its product If you doubt my credentials, Google ‘cybersecurity legend’ and see whose name is the only name that appears in the first 10 results out of more than a quarter of a million.” Read More.
Steve Wozniak, The Great and Powerful Woz: “I believe that Apple’s brand recognition and value and profits is largely based on an item called trust. Trust means you believe somebody. You believe you’re buying a phone with encryption. It shouldn’t have hidden backdoors and ways that you don’t know what’s going to happen in the future.” Read More.
James Comey, FBI Director: In his most recent statement said that the scale of the San Bernardino attacks, which left 14 people dead and 22 people injured, warranted the pursuit of all leads, including reviewingSyed Rizwan Farook’s iPhone 5c. “I hope folks will take a deep breath and stop saying the world is ending, but instead use that breath to talk to each other,” Comey said.
Donald Trump, via Twitter:
Shane Harris, Daily Beast: “A 2015 court case shows that the tech giant has been willing to play ball with the government before—and is only stopping now because it might ‘tarnish the Apple brand.’”
Tom Cotton, Arkansas Senator: “Apple chose to protect a dead ISIS terrorist’s privacy over the security of the American people… Apple is becoming the company of choice for terrorists, drug dealers, and sexual predators of all sorts.”
Josh Ernest, White House spokesperson (via Reuters): “It’s important to recognize that the government is not asking Apple to redesign its product or ‘create a new backdoor’ to its products.”
Where do you stand?
Switch to a search engine that doesn’t view you as a product, and doesn’t exist solely to sell you to advertisers. Switch to Search Incognito.
According to recent Studies: “91% of American adults say that consumers have lost control over how personal information is collected and used by companies.” Here are 5 simple ways to protect your privacy:
Keep Things Off The Cloud: For Storage use an external USB drive, preferably an encrypted one. Everything you put into online storage –Google docs, DropBox, iCloud – becomes part of the great Internet data lump. If it is out there someone can get it.
Don’t use Google: Use a search engine that doesn’t store your searches or track you like Search Incognito.
Major search providers collect data in order to better target advertising. These companies are in the business of making money and search ads are big money.
Major search engines, like Google and Bing, store your search data. This information is tied back to you and your family. In addition, they can associate your searches with other account information such as: location, online purchases, photos and email. (Find out more here).
Clear Cookies: Set your browser to clear all your cookies and history every time you close your browser.
Encrypt Your Hard Drive: You can use Microsoft’s BitLocker or Apple’s FileVault it is easy and effective.
8 things you need to know about the battle between Privacy and Justice
Court Order: A U.S Judge in Riverside ruled in favor of the FBI and ordered Apple to help hack into an iPhone used by the gunman in the San Bernardino Terror Attacks. Basically they can’t break in without compromising the data inside.
FBI: The FBI is asking Apple to create a new operating system (that does not currently exist) that will circumvent the pass-code, allowing them access to the phone without risk to the data. This is to gather critical information on suspects that may be linked to the mass murders in San Bernardino.
Apple: In an open letter to its customers Apple explains that this is a dangerous precedent. What the FBI is asking them to do would potentially unlock any iPhone. Apple maintains that this would put all iPhone’s at risk, once the encryption can be defeated, that information can get into the wrong hands.
Global Impact: If Apple provides this information to the U.S. government then the precedent is set, they may be asked to provide the same information to other foreign governments like China.
Is this a Backdoor: A “backdoor” is a weak point that exists permanently in the security of a device or network. It remains there so that the government can get in as it needs. The issue with back doors is that the good guys and bad guys alike are now able to exploit the weakness. Apple argues that if you build a version of iOS that bypasses security that is a backdoor. If the ability exists there is no guarantee that it will only be used in this case.
Legal: All Writs Act of 1789 a rarely used law that allows judges to issue orders they deem necessary and appropriate.
People of San Bernardino: Many of the victim’s families are urging the company to comply with the order to help law enforcement. They fear that there may have been additional plots and others linked to the two terrorists.
Privacy vs Justice: The conflict between maintaining privacy for ordinary US citizens in the digital age and prosecuting or preventing crime is always going to exist. The easier it is to collect, maintain and monitor criminals, the more monitored you will be. Where that line is and how much we will sacrifice to stay safe, will be decided in cases such as this one.
Try This One Way to Protect Your Privacy Online:
Don’t Use A Major Search Engine: Google collects and stores your searches, they tie your personal information, email, your address, photos, purchases, location to every search you make. Use a search engine that does not collect your personal information or store your search history Like Search Incognito.
The Winners and Losers This Week in Online Privacy
Winners: Congress: The U.S. House of Representatives presented a bill to prevent warrant-less government surveillance. This is in direct response to growing tension over government requests to tech companies to create back doors. The government has asked many smartphone makers to weaken their product’s encryption by creating these back-doors, which in theory, would only be accessible by state run agencies. The Full Article
Europe: Google will finally start to scrub search results for “right to be forgotten” requests. Citizens in Europe have the right to ask for the removal of irrelevant or inadequate information when searching their name. However, Google will only scrub the information by geographic locations. If you are in France and you don’t want certain websites or articles attached to your name, you can make a request to be forgotten, but that correlation will still remain outside of France. No word yet on this right extending to Americans. The Full Article
Losers: NSA: The NSA is merging its two major divisions into one single directorate. The NSA has two divisions, one is offensive (attacking other people’s systems) and one that is defense (making it hard to break into our systems). The Catch 22 is that the higher you set the cryptographic bar, the higher the standards become and the harder it becomes to break into foreign systems. By merging the two divisions, there is no longer the integrity of dual purpose. It will be much easier to promote weak standards in order to break into foreign networks with greater ease.“The Snowden leaks showed that the NSA did cheat: they deliberately tried to introduce weaknesses into crypto standards so they’d be able to break into foreign networks. This makes their merger of offense and defense a big problem.” The Full Article
Apple: Tim Cook has been bashing Google and Facebook for their lack of data integrity. However it has come to light that Google has paid Apple 1 Billion Dollars to continue the use of it’s search bar on Apple devices. Even with Google’s extensive data tracking that Apple has publicly opposed. What does Google track? You may be surprised. Depending on what google products you use, Google can tie account information like: email you have written, your location, places you have been, voicemail’s, online purchases, all to your search activity. More Information
Try This One Way to Protect Your Privacy Online:
Don’t Use A Major Search Engine: Google collects and stores your searches, they tie your personal information, email, your address, photos, purchases, location to every search you make. Use a search engine that does not collect your personal information or store your search history like Search Incognito.
The Search Incognito extension that’s available from our website is a browser extension. This means that every time we release a new version it is scrutinized by the teams at both Mozilla and Google to ensure that we abide by their policies.
Being a browser extension also means that the Search Incognito extension is easily removable. In fact we provide direct instructions on our website with how to remove Search Incognito should you find it unappealing. This removal is also based on the browsers extension system and Search Incognito is unable to leave any trace of itself on your machine.
Search Incognito secures your search
Installing the Search Incognito extension adds a layer of security between your browser and the online world. We have advanced detection techniques to determine when your browser is going to make an insecure search and then we route that search to our custom search engine.
This search engine is 100% anonymous. We don’t store logs about any searches, we don’t store any information about where a user came from or was going, and we especially don’t store any information about the users themselves! Any claims that we store user information and build profiles to show targeted ads are completely slanderous.
Search Incognito is safe
We created Search Incognito to provide more privacy in the wake of the digital collection era. Constantly our online activities are being watched and valued. We have corporations putting dollar amounts on our head to sell to advertisers. We believe that the things you search for shouldn’t be used to target you. We believe in digital privacy.
To organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.
That mission statement sounds great at first- if you want to know the local movie showtimes then having that information ‘universally accessible and useful’ is very convenient. However, consider how much data Google knows about you.
If you have an Android phone, you can see that Google knows everywhere you’ve been with your phone, regardless of if GPS is turned on (see your history here: https://www.google.com/maps/timeline). Every time you ask ‘Ok Google’ a question, your voice is saved on Google’s servers (see your history here: https://history.google.com/history/audio). Every single search you’ve ever made on Google is stored and analyzed by Google (see your history here: https://history.google.com/history/). If you use Gmail, Google knows the content of every email you’ve sent or received.
Why does it matter if Google has this data?
Because Google’s primary business is advertising.
Google uses all of this data- your searches, your emails, your location history, even your browsing history- to generate a profile of who it thinks you are so that it can sell you as a product to potential advertisers. If you want to see what google thinks about you, visit this link to see the profile of your interests and likely demographic: https://www.google.com/settings/u/0/ads/authenticated. Google’s main way to make money is to get as much information about you as it can so that it can tell advertisers what you’re likely to buy and they can try to affect your purchasing decisions.
“To organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful,” Google says its primary goal is. It’s great when that information is about sports, news, or stocks, but it’s not so great when that universally accessible and useful information is about you.
Switch to a search engine that doesn’t view you as a product, and doesn’t exist solely to sell you to advertisers. Switch to Search Incognito.
Why does privacy matter when you have nothing to hide? You probably tell yourself that there’s nothing to worry about when the government only collects data to catch criminals.
The truth is, it does matter! Our personal information is collected in almost every transaction that occurs offline and online. Banks and credit card companies record, store and track our purchasing habits. Not only do they know what we purchased, they also track and store the locations and times of the purchases.
Companies claim that your personal information is secure from prying eyes and hackers. As we have see in recent years, this couldn’t be further from the truth. Case in point the 2013/2014 Target cyber-attack. It’s been estimated that over 40 million debit and credit card numbers were stolen during this attack. Millions of the card numbers were found and made available for purchase online by the cyber-criminals.
Steps need to be made both in the private and public sectors to ensure that our privacy is protected. Most importantly, we need to educate ourselves with the companies we deal with each and every day and what measures they have in place to ensure that our personal information is kept private and secure.