Achieving Online Search Privacy

internet privacy shield-105499_640Google is ubiquitous. There’s no getting around it. What’s worse, Google tracks EVERYTHING! How extensive is Google’s tracking? They’re tracking you even when you think they aren’t. With cookies, filter bubbles, IP addresses, fingerprinting, flash cookies, HTML storage, and other tools; Google uses your information more than you do.

And it’s not like us writer types ever search for anything weird.

Back in June, Martin Crosbie asked the question, “Could Researching My Book Get Me in Trouble?” We all know the feeling. Is there anything we can do about it? Sure, rid yourself from electronics and Google. But, that’s not practical, is it? Clicking “Incognito” or “Private Browsing” does not solve the problem. It only eliminates the searches from your viewable history. If you’re searching for “Top four ways to kill without getting caught” on your private browsing tab at your “real” job, believe me, it shows up if someone is monitoring the network.

So, what can we do? Here are a couple of options to minimize tracking so you can maintain some sort of privacy.

Epic Privacy Browser – The Epic browser,, is an internet browser that claims to be privacy friendly. It works by running your entire search and site visits through RAM memory. When you close the browser, your data disappears with it. While there have been mixed reviews with this site, it’s fairly robust when it comes to privacy. In fact, there is a rumor that Google got so offended that it cut off all advertising revenue from Epic’s website.

The key to most “privacy” based browsers is the use of a proxy. In other words, the browser creates an identity for you and allows you to scoot amongst different sites without anyone knowing it’s you. Epic works on this philosophy as well. With one click, you can hide your computer’s IP address.

DuckDuckGo – This is probably one of the most popular Google alternatives. DuckDuckGo doesn’t create proxies like Epic, rather it incorporates a redirect approach or even an encrypted version. Your IP address is relatively private and you won’t get hit with a bunch of ads based on your search. Their claim to fame is that they do not collect or share any personal information.

Ixquick – Here’s how Ixquick is considered in the search world — DuckDuckGo actually promotes it as another privacy-based search engine. Imagine Google suggesting that you should use Bing instead. Ixquick takes a different approach in its search mechanism. It actually scans other search engines for your result. However, by default, it does not share your info, including your IP address, with other sites.

So, if you are concerned about privacy and getting into trouble because you looked up the recipe for a bomb, consider using the above browsers.

A few things to keep in mind …

1.     Even with protections, you are never completely anonymous. Epic is considered perhaps the most private of all browsers. However, researchers found that it saved snippets of your search results to the hard drive. Your privacy is intact, but a forensic computer specialist could still go through your computer to see what you’ve been up to.

2.     Speed. We’re all spoiled by Google. When using these alternative browsers, they won’t be as fast. There’s a price you pay for privacy. Creating proxies and redirecting take time. It’s not like the old dial-up days, but you will notice a difference.

3.     Downloads. Just like anything that you load on to your computer, make sure you don’t click the wrong thing. Just install what you need and don’t accept everything under the sun.

4.     Privacy is NOT a security blanket. With a more private site, don’t get lulled into a false sense of security. There is truly no way to be 100% private. Always be aware.

With those tips, you should be able to safely search for all those ugly, menacing, and dangerous items without drawing the attention of … well … just about anybody.

Author: Jim Devitt

Jim Devitt’s debut YA novel, The Card, hit #1 in three separate categories on the Kindle Bestseller list in early January and was a finalist in the Guys Can Read Indie Author Contest this past summer. Devitt currently lives in Miami, FL with his wife Melissa and their children. Learn more about Jim at his blog and his Amazon author page.

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