Online Privacy – Ways to Keep your Searches Private

spamAll major search engines claim that they need to retain personal data, in part, to provide better services and improving results, while also taking countermeasures against web nuisances like click fraud and search poisoning (using elaborate SEO techniques to rank up scam websites on search engine indexes). Even if you trust that search companies will take your privacy seriously, there are various things you can do to adopt safe browsing habits and help protect your privacy.

If you are looking to attain utmost privacy while browsing the Web, you must first acknowledge that even the most basic and ubiquitous of tools like search engines tend to collect a ton of data every time you use them. Often this recorded information is like a puzzle comprising of IP addresses, search logs, and other data that needs to be connected before anything can truly be revealed about you. But this glimpse into your online habits combined with personal and sensitive information you may have shared with third party sites — banking information, credit cards, addresses or possibly phone numbers — could potentially expose you to identity theft and other privacy invasions.

 

Avoid Browser Toolbars – Besides clogging your browser’s user interface, toolbars may permit the collection of information about your web surfing habits. Watch out for inadvertently installed toolbars when installing free software that you are not particularly familiar with. It’s also a good idea to stay away from your ISP’s search engines, like search.comcast.net or search.aol.com, as they might be able to link your identity to your searches. Tool bars can also open the door for malware such as browser hijacking, key loggers and more…

 

Clear Web History  – Google has a feature called Web History that automatically saves all of your Internet searches when logged onto any of their services — Gmail, Calendar, Reader, Docs and so on. The company does not use this data to target ads — that’s stored on Google’s server logs which are anonymized after nine months. But your Web History is retained forever unless you turn it off or manually delete the contents. To do this simply head to the Web History option, click “Remove items” on the left pane and then “Clear entire Web History” on the right. You can also choose to remove individual items. If you aren’t signed in to a Google Account, your search experience will still be customized based on past search information linked to a cookie on your browser. To disable this you have to search for something first, click “Web History” in the top right corner of the results page, and choose to disable customizations.

Bing saves your search history for four weeks and displays it on the site using a cookie stored in your browser. You’ll see a “History” link on the left pane to access this feature, where you can turn it off, clear your entire history, or remove items individually — pretty straightforward. For its part, Yahoo offers a feature called “Search Pad” that doesn’t specifically save your past searches but rather the results you click on after a search.

To disable Search Pad for your current session simply use the Turn Off option from the pull down menu in the Search Pad application that sits on the left side of your screen after you conduct a search. To disable it permanently, click the Options link within any search results page and select preferences from the pull down, look for the Search Pad section and click Edit, then select Off and hit save. Search Pad is actually useful when researching a topic online, as it keeps track of the sites you’ve visited and lets you take notes. Furthermore, your history is cleared when you sign out or close the browser.

 

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