Monday, August 21, 2006

Safer searching

In light of AOL's recent disclosure of "anonymous" search information, the EFF has issued a simple set of tips to keep your search history private. Some of them are pretty common sense, such as avoiding using personal information in your searches. Others are worth looking into, but require a bit more effort. For instance:

  • Don't accept cookies from your search engine. If you use a service like web-based e-mail that requires you to accept cookies, don't let the personally-identifying information in your e-mail get linked with your searches. For Firefox users, the free CustomizeGoogle extension will allow you to anonymize your search cookie without breaking GMail (see the "Privacy" tab in the CustomizeGoogle options).

  • Use an anonymizing proxy, or proxy network like Tor, to prevent search engines from learning your IP address, especially if your ISP gives you the same IP address each time you use the Internet.

It's short and sweet, but we could all use a reminder every now and again.

Update: If you're uncomfortable installing an extension from a third party website, you can refer to the CustomizeGoogle listing at Mozilla. And of course, always exercise caution when installing software from the 'net.


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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi. I use the CustomizeGoogle extension, but is it safe?

According to Softpedia, the 0.45 version is 100% clean. Can we trust the testers at Softpedia? Who are they? Are they computer scientists/engineers? Can we believe the Softpedia testers?

Thanks for your help.

Mon Aug 21, 08:30:00 PM PDT  
Blogger brad77 said...

Those are good questions, anonymous. It looks like you're not the only one wondering about Softpedia. I'm not familiar with the site. They are a pretty popular site, according to their Alexa rankings, but that doesn't tell us much. They appear to be a Romanian site who, according to their Wiki, have been accused of snatching content from others time to time.

I'm using version 0.49. How safe is it? I don't know. I think that a recommendation by the EFF counts for something, but I can't vouch for its safety.

Personally, I avoid extensions that aren't listed at Extensions found there are subject to at least a modicum of accountability. That doesn't mean that you shouldn't be careful, though, as Mozilla's policy errs on the side of trust:

"We (the community) trust you initially, but if you cross that line, you will be beaten severely."

In the end, it's up to you. Thanks for the questions, though. I'll update the entry to include a link to the extension as listed by Mozilla.

Does anyone else have any information on Softpedia?

Mon Aug 21, 09:54:00 PM PDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi brad77.

Thanks for your reply. I appreciate it.

I'm also using 0.49, but I don't know if I should continue using it...!!!

Tue Aug 22, 10:27:00 AM PDT  

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