Protecting Your Personal Privacy Online
Today’s topic may seem rather mundane, compared to some of the malicious things that go on out there in the wild, wild Internet. But if you value your privacy, you need to be aware that every time you use a search engine and every time you visit a Website, your actions are being recorded. You may not think you have anything to hide. But the results of what Internet companies know about you could easily result in revealing something you would prefer to keep private.
Why Are You Being Tracked?
Companies make big bucks by selling your activities and interests to sales and marketing firms. Universally, the companies that engage in this kind of tracking (a.k.a. “snooping”) say it is to provide a better “user experience.” What they mean by this is, once they know your interests, they can put relevant advertisements in front of you on everything from your webmail account to Facebook to Amazon to … you get the idea. And for a fee, they send that information to third parties, who in turn target you with what they consider relevant advertising. This has nothing to do with making money, of course. It’s done only to improve your “user experience.” 🙂 Pfffft.
Sometimes these ads can be benign. Other times they constitute a real invasion of personal privacy. For instance, if you are searching for information about certain medical conditions, you may not want this appearing on your Facebook page.
How to Avoid Being Tracked
If you want your Internet browsing to be anonymous, there is a way. You must avoid the use of all the top name brand search tools (Google, Bing, etc), and instead use a search engine that doesn’t track your searches, followed by the use of a proxy server to keep your Website visits private.
My favorite private search engine is ixquick.com. When you use ixquick to search, neither your IP address (your Internet location) nor your search topic are recorded. You search in complete privacy.
But that’s not the end of the story. Once you get a listing of Websites matching your search, if you just click to go to a site, that site now takes over and you are likely being tracked. Even the trusted WebMD site contains tracking software that records everything you look at. This, in turn, provides valuable marketing information for drug companies, who may end up marketing to you.
Ixquick has the answer to this, too. It’s their ixquick proxy server. A proxy server allows you to make indirect network connections. Your Website requests are routed first to the proxy server and then passed on to the desired Web destination from the proxy. The Website you visit sees only the proxy, thereby providing you with anonymity.
Here’s How It Works
Let’s say you want to learn more about thyroid disease, but you don’t want your research to be tracked.
- First launch your favorite browser. Then direct that browser to ixquick.com
- In the ixquick search box, type: thyroid disease … then click GO. Your search will be executed anonymously.
- Now like any search engine, you will see a selection of Websites that match your search. DO NOT just click the blue Website link. If you do, your privacy will be vulnerable to snooping, depending on the tracking properties of the Website you go to.
- DO look for a search result that shows the “Proxy” option under the Website name (see figure below). Click on Proxy, not the Website name.
Some Things to Note about Using a Proxy Server
- Not all search result sites will offer the proxy option. If you want true anonymity, don’t click on these. Use only the sites that offer the Proxy option.
- When you use a proxy, you will note that your Internet performance is slowed, sometimes significantly. This is because your request for information must first be transferred to the proxy server before it is relayed on to the final source of the information you are seeking. The reduction in speed is well worth it if you want to preserve your privacy.
Ixquick is not the only no-track search engine out there. But ixquick is my choice because of the proxy option. It does no good to conduct a private search, and then be transferred to a Website that tracks your every move.
Check out: ixquick.com