Monday, November 14, 2011

Searching incognito

On Halloween a couple of weeks ago I wrote about a browser tool called Ghostery that I learned about at the Internet Librarian conference. In the same session, business research librarian/consultant, Mary Ellen Bates, told us about ways to search anonymously. I didn't realize how cagey you would have to be to do this!

You may have heard that Google customizes your search results based on your particular search patterns. In fact, Terri wrote about it earlier in October.  Test it out! Get two of your friends (especially if are in different states or age groups) to search for the same thing at the same time and send each other the screen shot of your results. Google gets to know you!

But, if you want to search in privacy, there are some ways to do that. The following are some options that Bates shared with us:
  • Scroogle claims that they “crumble 350,000 cookies and block a million ads” every day. 
  • is a search engine that removes all identifying information from your query and submits it anonymously to Google for you. 
  •  is a general purpose search engine with a no-tracking privacy policy. 

(Of course, after having searched for Scroogle and Startpage using Google, when I started searching for Duckduckgo, Google recommended it to me quicker than I could finish entering it in the search box.)

Another way to avoid detection is to change countries before using a search engine. According to Bates, Google doesn't really let you do that but Bing does. Interesting!

But I am not as concerned as Bates about anonymity. I kind of appreciate the shortcuts Google gives me to use. I have even gotten used to the new version of “Did you mean” where Google now just assumes that I didn't mean to type something in the box.

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