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Privacy, Google, and Web Browsers
03-09-2015, 11:51 (This post was last modified: 03-09-2015 12:41 by travelite.)
Post: #1
Privacy, Google, and Web Browsers
I've been finding it more and more disturbing that after I Google something I'm often inundated with spam emails from vendors wanting to sell me the same or a related item. I find it really creepy. We all know that Google sells adwords and from the beginning they stored our search strings to help sell their adwords, but lately they've taken it a step further. Now it seems they're storing our search histories along with IP addresses, email addresses, and other personal identifiers so that advertising can be directed to a specific user. Of course all this stored information is available to whoever buys it or subpoenas it. This is made worse by running Chrome on our PC's. With Chrome Google has the ability to write and read data directly to and from our machines. So, I deleted Chrome from all my machines and I'm weaning myself off Google. There are other viable alternatives which sprang up specifically to address these privacy issues. I'm now running Pale Moon as my web browser and I tend to use DuckDuckGo for my search engine. Both have very appealing privacy policies of not collecting and storing search histories along with associated users IP addresses and other persona ID information. I'm fed up with Google building a profile of every user, selling it to advertisers, or giving it to the NSA. The Google feature I miss most is, "Do no evil"!

david brady,
'02 Wanderlodge LXi 'Smokey' (Sold),
'04 Prevost H3 Vantare 'SpongeBob'

"I don't like being wrong, but I really hate being right"
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03-09-2015, 18:43 (This post was last modified: 03-09-2015 18:43 by davidbrady.)
Post: #2
RE: Privacy, Google, and Web Browsers
Here's Pale Moon's answer to the question: "Why was the default search engine changed to DuckDuckGo"?:


Since several people have asked this question, and I expect more people will, I'll highlight the most important reasons for changing the default search engine to DuckDuckGo in Pale Moon 24.4 and later:

Unbiased search results: With the previous default search provider (Google), the results of your search would be biased based on who you are: your geographical location, your search history (yes, Google keeps a history of everything you ever searched for), ads you have clicked on and tracked sites you have visited. Although it's marketed as "providing you with more relevant results" I think this kind of bias is bad. It will show you more of the same stuff you already like and know and have searched for before. If you use a search engine, how often do you want to look up the same thing or want to be given the same kind of results? It would be the bane for any actual research you are doing.

No profiling: As said above, Google keeps a history of your search results. Don't believe me? go have a look yourself here: https://history.google.com/history/
This kind of recorded history helps Google with building user profiles, which in turn can be used commercially. Based on your past results you may even be shown completely different providers for goods and services (in different price brackets) because you fall in a certain group of people, for example. Not to mention that aggregated data from user searches can also be sold to interested parties. And I think most people didn't even know this kind of (very personal!) data was being collected.

Privacy-aware search provider: DuckDuckGo is privacy-aware. They make efforts to not track you and not store any sort of data (well they do, briefly, for normal search engine operations, but it's being immediately thrown away when no longer needed). While there are other, similar search providers with the same privacy goals, I've chosen (a while back already) to include DuckDuckGo in Pale Moon for providing a current-day, complete package with relevant results based on proven technology.

You are in control: Through the DuckDuckGo settings page, you can fine-tune search results for your (or a specifically desired!) region if you so wish, or keep searching globally. This is especially important if your public IP doesn't necessarily reflect your actual location. The provider even makes it possible to do it by passing parameters in the URL so if you absolutely hate browser cookies to store your personal preferences, you don't have to.

Technical issues with Google: Google search results pages have started giving issues for Pale Moon users (when they would use the "back" button in their browser, for example, instead of the navigation controls on the page) making it an annoyance to use. It would make sense therefore to make a different provider the default.

No need to further support Mozilla: The Mozilla Corporation, through their contract with Google as the search provider, benefits financially from every Google search result performed from a Firefox browser (where do you think the ad revenue share goes to when you search from the search box or about:home in Firefox...?) Apart from a very large revenue stream that they already have (officially non-profit, but that doesn't mean they don't make any money...) and IMO not needing any more to add to that through a third-party browser, they have displayed a lot of undesired behavior in their recent developments of Firefox (e.g. removal of useful features) and plans for the future (e.g. making the browser adware and in turn displaying greed of the first order), and I no longer want to have them benefit (financially) from my browser out-of-the-box through searches, out of principle.

In-result detailed information: DutckDuckGo has a very useful feature that displays essential information about your search results in a box at the top, providing you often with a basic answer to your query without even having to visit the sites. I think this is an absolutely invaluable feature of the provider, which in its own right already keeps you safer (especially when researching dodgy material) and more private.

david brady,
'02 Wanderlodge LXi 'Smokey' (Sold),
'04 Prevost H3 Vantare 'SpongeBob'

"I don't like being wrong, but I really hate being right"
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03-09-2015, 21:23
Post: #3
RE: Privacy, Google, and Web Browsers
David,

I appreciate the computer, browser, and search engine lesson regarding privacy. Will Mac, and iPhone users be able to bypass Safari and use the browser you referenced?

Jeff

89 Beaver Contessa (Sold)
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03-09-2015, 21:48
Post: #4
RE: Privacy, Google, and Web Browsers
David,

Did you have a google account?

John Mace
96 42 big bird
living in the wild hinterlands of the north
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03-09-2015, 22:02 (This post was last modified: 03-09-2015 23:04 by cmillsap.)
Post: #5
RE: Privacy, Google, and Web Browsers
I still use Internet Explorer and Bing as the search engine. Who Knows? They be as bad as Google. I have a gmail account but very seldom use Google Chrome for search.

I also dump my surfing history on Exit. That keeps the ads showing up on my screen at a minimum.

Chuck & Tela Millsap
2003 Prevost Marathon XLII
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03-09-2015, 22:09
Post: #6
RE: Privacy, Google, and Web Browsers
David,

I feel your pain and frustration. And I agree with your distrust of Google.

I have not used Pale Moon, but I used Opera and a couple other smaller less well known browsers for a while. After many website issues reaching certain sites, I returned to FireFox, which uses Yahoo as it's default search engine now, in place of Google. Additionally, you can change your default search engine to DuckDuckGo or numerous other choices, including back to Google. FireFox also has Private Window option for supposedly anonymous surfing.

But it is not just searches that are a problem, it is the trackers once you get to a site. I think one of the biggest offenders is Amazon as far as spamming you after a search on their site, if you signed in, which seems automatic on that site once you ever have a sign on.

In reality, you need multiple layers of protection. I added Ghostery add-on to each web browser I use. It blocks the real time trackers when you go to a website. It is amazing to see how many tracker beacons pop up immediately each time you initially go to a site. I run the blocked site list for 3 seconds in a small window just to watch it work.

At least every two or three days I run SUPERAntiSpyware in the background to root out adware tracking cookies that get set by the site after you get there. Then about once a week I run Malwarebytes to look for serious viruses and trojans (that's on top of running UnHackMe in real time).

It may seem like overkill, but thus far, no viruses and no identifiable spam from my searches, other than from Amazon.

FWIW, YMMV, yadda yadda.......

Mike Bulriss
2001 LXi43 DS
San Antonio, TX
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03-09-2015, 23:14 (This post was last modified: 03-09-2015 23:17 by davidbrady.)
Post: #7
RE: Privacy, Google, and Web Browsers
John,

When I got my first Android, years ago, I pretty much got swallowed up into all of the Android Google services which require a Google ID, or gmail account which is basically the same thing. So, yes I do have a Google account. In my quest for privacy I have to address my Android, and removing Google from it will require rooting the phone, flashing a new ROM, and adding third party sources for the services I want: app store, search, mail, backup, and so on. It's definitely possible to run and Android phone without a Google account but it will take some effort.

Jeff,

I'm not as familiar with Apple devices, but I think it's virtually impossible to root an Apple device. Android is based on Linux and is an open source system. Google bought it and tightly integrated all there services into today's Android phones. Apple is proprietary thru and thru which means no source, no compiling, no flashing, no rooting, and consequently no freeing the phone from the Apple walled garden. But, again I'm not an Apple expert.

david brady,
'02 Wanderlodge LXi 'Smokey' (Sold),
'04 Prevost H3 Vantare 'SpongeBob'

"I don't like being wrong, but I really hate being right"
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03-10-2015, 00:04
Post: #8
RE: Privacy, Google, and Web Browsers
I asked because I've never gotten emails or such from my goggle searches. I do see the ads on followup pages for stuff I've looked at, no matter where I've looked at it. I can type in a specific site and then see their ads in future pages, often for many days after. So since I don't have anything google account related, I assumed that that had to be part of it.

Mike sounds like he's got a good handle on it. I may just start looking into some of his ideas to use for myself.

John Mace
96 42 big bird
living in the wild hinterlands of the north
free to roam without the man getting me down
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03-10-2015, 11:46
Post: #9
RE: Privacy, Google, and Web Browsers
We switched to Mac in 08, and have not used any virus protection since. Mac products come loaded with Safari browsers, and we used Google to search until last year. Having the same concerns as David we have been using Bing, but as a result of this thread have just loaded duckduckgo on our Macs, iPhones, and iPads. I am pleased with the search results. Thanks for the tip David.
Apparently there are options for browsers as well for Mac products. I have not changed that yet. Does the fact that we have not used any virus protection for seven years mean we should not look for an alternative? In Safari settings, there are separate options to, block pop ups, do not track, and block cookies.
I do not desire to understand everything about computers, however privacy about my shopping/searching habits are important. Does the non-open source nature of Apple products with the do not track enabled, and the duckduckgo search engine provide enough security to thwart the marketers effort to build a profile?

89 Beaver Contessa (Sold)
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97 Roadtrek 190 (Sold)
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03-10-2015, 17:07 (This post was last modified: 03-10-2015 17:08 by davidbrady.)
Post: #10
RE: Privacy, Google, and Web Browsers
Jeff,

I think that's about the best you can do. I also run Blur (previously 'DoNotTrackMe') which adds a layer of security to personal information, including credit card numbers and email addresses, when filling out forms.

It may be a little overboard, but I also tend not to use my real name or other identifying information when filling out forms. I'll make up a name and I also make up answers to question clues like "mother's maiden name", "city of birth", "name of first pet", and so on. There's no need to give out the real info. Make it up!

Also, for the inevitable case where a google search is required, Opt out. You can ask Google to limit what it stores. I think eliminating Chrome is a big first step. While Chrome is a good browser, it's also a terrible memory hog and often locks up my machine. So far, I'm enjoying much better performance with Pale Moon.

Again, I'm not a security expert so maybe others can add to this list.

Sadly, my opinion is that the Internet is pretty much broken when it comes to security. We need to actively work to ensure our privacy. It's slowly gotten this way with few noticing, to the point where many folks think it's normal for software to spy on us and for our search engines to profile us. That's just plain wrong!

david brady,
'02 Wanderlodge LXi 'Smokey' (Sold),
'04 Prevost H3 Vantare 'SpongeBob'

"I don't like being wrong, but I really hate being right"
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