Have you ever noticed how adverts pop up online related to what you've been looking at on websites?
This is because what you look at is tracked. It's a clever way of presenting you with adverts that you are likely to be interested in, and therefore more likely to buy. Advertising is the reason so much of the internet is 'free' for us to use - it's how Google, Facebook, Youtube and other giants earn their incomes.
If you're not up to anything illicit, does it matter whether or not your online activity is tracked? But what if you use Google for Work and for Home, and when you're doing your business presentation, job opportunites are popping up, or images from your search for reference pics for the art class... it was when my property searches started appearing on my work PC, that I became concerned. More frustrating, is the fact that your search results on Google are shaped by your previous searches.
On one hand, tracking your activity online allows for nifty features like 'auto form completes'; password remembering; presenting you with things you are actually interested in, and does make life easier. On the other hand, is it right for an external party to have access to so much private information about us?
Your view is probably shaped by how much you value your privacy. But whatever you think, it's good to have the facts to make an informed decision. In this blog, I want to focus on alternatives to Google, and ways to use Google without being tracked.
DuckDuckGo doesn't believe your data should be for sale, or that your online activity should be tracked, or that it should be used to present you with advertising. Using Duckduckgo will ensure that your online activity is private, as it blocks website trackers, and doesn't record your online activity. It is a good, stable search engine that will give you unbiased results, while your Google results are shaped by your previous searches.
If you're looking for statistical information (World population etc) then Wolfram Alpha is your search engine. It's a great site that will generate graphs and tables and is a great resource for homework and assignments.
Bing is Microsoft's search engine, and while it doesn't track you as much as Google, I find it does not always find the information I am looking for.
While Google's attitude to privacy scares me, it is still the best search engine for finding information. There are ways you can limit the information it tracks.
- - 'Go incongnito' - using the Control, Shift and N keys together will open a new 'incognito' window in Google Chrome, which allows you to be anonymous. Many other browsers have similar features.
- - If you use Gmail or Google drive etc - make sure you are signed out of your Google account when you are online. This prevents your search history being carried from one computer to another.
- - Clear your 'cookies' (programmes websites put on your computer, so they recognise you when you return to the site, and remember your information) This can be done in your browser settings, but be aware that when you do this, you will have to enter all of your user names etc again! You can set your browser to clear the cookies every time you close it.
And of course, whenever you have a computer connected to the internet, make sure you have good antivirus protection, and keep it up to date.
Being tech savy is important when you're online, because it helps protect your privacy, and your information. Stay safe!
* Search engines are programmes that look through the internet to find information and return it to you - Google, Bing etc
** Browsers are the programme you use to access the internet - Chrome; Safari ; Firefox etc