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Google Privacy

How Do I Keep My Privacy While Using Google? 533

Posted by Soulskill
from the encrypt-your-search-terms dept.
hubert.lepicki writes "I use Google all the time. I keep two GMail tabs open when I'm online (one is private, another is a corporate account), I use Google search, and recently I switched to the Chromium browser. Google's services are fast, easy to use and usually reliable. At the same time, I know Google is tracking everything I do; I can see it in search results or their ads on web pages, which tend to match my interests. After the recent post by Mozilla's community director suggesting Bing has a better privacy policy (a response to questionable comments from Google CEO Eric Schmidt), I started to... 'google' ways of keeping my private data safe while browsing and using Google services. The results weren't very helpful, so I ask you, Slashdotters: how do I stay anonymous to Google while using their services?"
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How Do I Keep My Privacy While Using Google?

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  • Ideas (Score:5, Interesting)

    by ilovegeorgebush (923173) * on Sunday December 13, 2009 @04:30PM (#30424740) Homepage
    TrackMeNot [nyu.edu] for Firefox is useful for masking your real search engine queries with randomised search terms. That's a start. Not sure if there's a Chrome equivalent. Is Chrome that much of a necessity? Firefox does the job (though it freezes far too often for me). Otherwise, why not exercise some self-constraint and try products from Yahoo, or even host your own? (First post? :P)
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      Open two different browsers, say Chrome and Firefox. Use one to log in to your email, but nothing else. In the other, never log in to Google services. It certainly doesn't solve the whole problem, but it is trivially easy and has no serious drawbacks.
      • Re:Ideas (Score:5, Informative)

        by Scrameustache (459504) on Sunday December 13, 2009 @04:46PM (#30424912) Homepage Journal

        Open two different browsers, say Chrome and Firefox. Use one to log in to your email, but nothing else. In the other, never log in to Google services. It certainly doesn't solve the whole problem, but it is trivially easy and has no serious drawbacks.

        Same IP address at the same time...

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by bytesex (112972)

          Yeah, but that's not really going to be reliable, is it ? For them, I mean. Do they have their intelligence into IP address space allocation so far advanced that they'll be able to tell the difference between an individually held IP address and one that's doin' a whole lot a nattin' ?

          • Re:Ideas (Score:5, Informative)

            by AHuxley (892839) on Sunday December 13, 2009 @06:30PM (#30425742) Homepage Journal
            http://wikileaks.org/wiki/EU_social_network_spy_system_brief%2C_INDECT_Work_Package_4%2C_2009 [wikileaks.org]
            Is just what IP tracking is for. You can have all the IM and browsers you want, over time the database logs 'you' and your friends once a set of "dictionary" words are tripped.
            Every search and IM is now "Signals intelligence" to the gov and marketing to the .coms.
            Or you can sell the 'data' to the gov too while running a marketing front :)
        • by redelm (54142) on Sunday December 13, 2009 @05:46PM (#30425402) Homepage
          Tracking HTTP by IP is extremely unreliable for Google and everyone else -- many corporations and other firewalled institutions run big proxy servers and funnel all their requests from that machine.
          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            Surely they could see that you're coming from a residential connection and compensate.

          • by JWSmythe (446288) <jwsmytheNO@SPAMjwsmythe.com> on Sunday December 13, 2009 @11:02PM (#30427504) Homepage Journal

                Some people won't believe you (and it's argued in the replies also), but yes any sort of identification by IP is pretty much useless, and it has been for years. It wasn't so bad for geolocating, but even then it ran into serious problems. Even Google, the behemoth datamining company, would sometimes send me off to google.ca, even though I was happily sitting in the US.

                They *CAN* use that information to associate you to a group of users. Some people have mentioned NAT on residential connections. Residential lines sometimes show up at small business sites, so even with some regex matching, it wouldn't identify if it's a single user house, or a 10+ user business. Then again, they can guess based on browser usage.

                A long time ago, at a company I worked for, we tried to use IP's as part (not all) of the user identification. It's all fine and dandy, until you find out that some places (namely AOL) are obnoxious about their proxies, and some users have multiple lines. One of my original problem was the users with multiple dialup accounts. They'd get annoyed at the speed with one, and switch.

                Even a user with a whole collection of dialup and broadband accounts won't be protected if they're searching for "bad" things. The IP is still identifiable to someone. If the feds start subpoenaing records, it won't matter which line you were on, they're still your line. If you're at work and doing it, don't believe for a second that your employer won't be compelled to hand over every machine in the place if necessary. And, no, stealing a WiFi connection from your neighbor isn't enough to protect you. If you've done something bad enough, and the feds show up, they'll figure out soon enough that grandma wasn't really looking for bomb making materials online, and they'll figure out who the rogue user is attached to her access point.

                The larger your organization is, the less likely you'll know they're on to you before there's a nice man with handcuffs and a badge standing at your cube saying "We need to talk. Come with us."

                So, the question then becomes, how much are you worried about what you're searching for online, and should you really be doing it? The IP may not be any good for positive identification, but it leads them down the trail right to you.

                 

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by RedBear (207369)

          Open two different browsers, say Chrome and Firefox. Use one to log in to your email, but nothing else. In the other, never log in to Google services. It certainly doesn't solve the whole problem, but it is trivially easy and has no serious drawbacks.

          Same IP address at the same time...

          Forgive me if I'm misunderstanding something about the nature of networking, but isn't anyone behind a NAT gateway or proxy going to be coming from the "same IP address at the same time"? I do believe that's one of the reasons they came up with cookies in the first place, to differentiate multiple users originating from the same IP address.

          So, as the grandparent suggests, if you use one web browser for Google queries and either reject all cookies in that browser or at the very least never log in to any Goog

        • Just listen to the radio and riff on random words you hear...

          I think my current profile must be for a pro-abortion conservative seeking vegetarian recopies for well aged beef, who is also looking for gun rights for married homosexuals who want to club baby seals to cut down on green house gasses, so that they can drive their Hummers as much as they like to anti-tax Tea Parties where they can dump their toxic CFL bulbs by the eco-friendly re-usable shopping bag-full. And, I may or may not have breast canc
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        How well would using Chrome's "Incognito mode" work?
    • Sticking with the theme of Firefox extensions there is also customize google, it does more than search too. http://www.customizegoogle.com/ [customizegoogle.com]
    • Re:Ideas (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward on Sunday December 13, 2009 @04:44PM (#30424886)

      This is like a steer asking, "how can I keep getting this free food and board without being taken to the slaughter house later?"

      To Google, you are the product. They are selling advertising. More specifically, they are selling your attention to marketers. Giving you privacy is contradictory to the entire purpose of their existence. They give you nice, fast, free stuff to keep you hooked in to their services and to keep collecting more data so that they can sell more advertising.

      There is no privacy using Google services. There never will be. They will keep encroaching into your private info as far as you let them.

      • Re:Ideas (Score:4, Insightful)

        by caitsith01 (606117) on Sunday December 13, 2009 @11:46PM (#30427730) Journal

        This is like a steer asking, "how can I keep getting this free food and board without being taken to the slaughter house later?"

        Unfortunately when the steer emails aunty Daisy, who lives in a paddock in another country, and she writes back, she also gets taken to the slaughter house later.

        This is my biggest issue with Google: I can control my own use of their services, but I can't control the drones around me who have all flocked to GMail as rapidly as they can. Even my alma mater has started using Google docs/apps/whatever and GMail to replace its old email system.

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by Uzik2 (679490)

          I run my own email server for privacy and educational reasons. Spamhaus has gotten into bed with big companies and they tell everyone to ignore all email from anyone using a cable modem. You're on the public block list not because you sent spam, but because of your IP.

    • Re:Ideas (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Z00L00K (682162) on Sunday December 13, 2009 @04:45PM (#30424898) Homepage

      Spread the confusion by always killing your cookies and use different browsers.

      But personally I run my own mail server and use only Google for searching.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by jda104 (1652769)
      SRWare Iron is a solution to your Chrome privacy concerns - http://www.srware.net/en/software_srware_iron.php [srware.net]

      It's a build of Chrome without all the privacy-infringing "features."
    • Re:Ideas (Score:5, Interesting)

      by quickgold192 (1014925) on Sunday December 13, 2009 @05:40PM (#30425340)

      Yes, I've thought about this problem and I've also read about TrackMeNot. Unfortunatly, TrackMeNot has some serious flaws:

      1. It randomizes search terms instead of following believable search patterns. Example 'search stream': Shoes, virus protection, Hannah Montana, flamethrower "do it yourself", Hawaii, spark plugs, military surplus, speaker system, Exhaust Flame Thrower Kits... It's pretty easy to see what's real and what's fake.
      2. People tend to use search engines in bursts. When I last used TrackMeNot it sent off search queries at regular intervals. The decoy queries would be easy to filter out.
      3. Nobody would really be willing to let queries like "donkey sex" or "how to kill the president" get fired off by the software. For true privacy, those would be the most important terms to make the list, so that if someone really *did* search for those, he could just say that it was the software making automatic requests.

      I had an idea to fix this:
      1. The software would have to monitor your search engine usage and match your searching bursts and searching frequency. Those things can't be hardwired into the software or else algorithms would so some fingerprint-matching on your search queries.
      The next part is a little fuzzy:
      2a. For every 'search burst' you make, the software can ananomously post the search terms to a central server that other clients read and use as decoys. The problem is filtering out truly private data such as address and names.
      2b. If not that, maybe the software can just go loose on the web and look up possible related search terms to search for.

      Of course, I'm thinking beyond simple privacy against advertisers. More like legal protection.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Larryish (1215510)
    • Re:Ideas (Score:5, Interesting)

      by rm999 (775449) on Sunday December 13, 2009 @06:11PM (#30425588)

      Careful with TrackMeNot - I used it for awhile, and Google started blocking my real searches, returning an error screen that indicated my searches may not be legitimate. They clearly know when you are using it (who sends in dozens of searches every hour of the day?), and may consider it a violation of their TOS. I don't know about you guys, but if they decided to shut down my account it would be pretty devastating - I backup a lot of information and important e-mails only on gmail.

      • Re:Ideas (Score:5, Insightful)

        by ScrewMaster (602015) * on Sunday December 13, 2009 @06:36PM (#30425772)

        I don't know about you guys, but if they decided to shut down my account it would be pretty devastating - I backup a lot of information and important e-mails only on gmail.

        Well, that's your problem right there. No online service should be treated as a backup system, nor should you allow yourself to become totally dependent upon it. Period. Store your stuff on your own equipment, and burn it to a disc now and then if it's that important. I don't trust Google or any other corporation that offers free services to be there tomorrow: remember, anything free is worth exactly what you paid for it. Take steps to preserve your data: that's your responsibility, not Google's.

  • If you asked me... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ls671 (1122017) * on Sunday December 13, 2009 @04:31PM (#30424744) Homepage

    If you asked me I would say resistance is futile unless you are ready to commit illegal actions.

    You could always use anonymous services like scroogle fro searching but if I was a intelligence gathering organization, I would run such "anonymous services" myself so there is a risk that you might be followed even more by using such services.

    Hacking into 10 machines and forwarding your connections through all of them might be a solution that will get you into trouble but that can be an efficient way to stay anonymous. But then again, intelligence gathering organizations might set up honey pots that you will end up using and you will bring even more attention to yourself this way.

    So anyway:
    > how do I stay anonymous to Google while using their services

    is a really hard to answer question: There might be solutions for anonymous services like searching but for gmail and all other services that require you to log in, I would say forget it.

    Intelligence gathering organizations have come to fully realize the potential of the Internet to track people, in contrast to the situation in the early 90s. Maybe Google CEO knows all about this and that he was just saying; you will be tracked anyway so you may as well be tracked by us ! He kind of screwed up on this because he is now stuck, unable to further explain his point of view, he would have to admit that Google, Bing and many other track you for business and marketing reasons but that they also "share" information with security oriented intelligence gathering organizations.

    So in the end, I would choose who I want to be tracked by for marketing purposes and forget about not being tracked for other purposes unless you want to risk getting into trouble. You may be safer just acting as a normal day to day user thus making the amount of traffic play into your advantage in order to stay anonymous.

  • TrackMeNot (Score:5, Interesting)

    by the linux geek (799780) on Sunday December 13, 2009 @04:33PM (#30424760)

    Look up the TrackMeNot Firefox extension. It spams Google and the other search engines with randomly generated but plausible search queries, so there's no real way that any of these companies can build a profile on you. If you browse with ads, however, prepare for some really bizarre ones.

  • Why not... (Score:2, Informative)

    by ctrl-alt-canc (977108)
    ...ask google [google.com] ?!?
  • Tor? (Score:5, Informative)

    by rvw (755107) on Sunday December 13, 2009 @04:34PM (#30424772)

    Why not use Tor for search queries? Your gmail is obviously a different story, because using Tor wouldn't make much difference for Google. So set Opera or Chrome to use Tor, and you're set for that part.

  • You don't (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Anrego (830717) * on Sunday December 13, 2009 @04:35PM (#30424784)

    Seriously.. despite all the controversy it has stirred up.. if you don't have anything to hide.. who cares

    It's not that black and white.. but chances are unless you have some very disturbing fetish.. chances are "the stuff you don't want your boss to know" is fairly similar to 10 million other people.. to the point where you are just a tiny blip in a stats bucket. Your just search #234521 for "sex with staplers".

    They arn't publishing your search history in the newspaper .. they are using it to increment a counter that you might be interested in office supply ads.

    If you are really paranoid though.. use adblock.. route everything through tor.. disable cookies.. and be sure to encrypt your hard-drive with a 20 gazillion bit cypher.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday December 13, 2009 @04:46PM (#30424910)
      20 gazillion bit cypher

      where can I get one of these? I am doing lots of illegal things, and I dont want to ask Google - for obvious reasons :-)

    • Re:You don't (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Scrameustache (459504) on Sunday December 13, 2009 @04:52PM (#30424964) Homepage Journal

      They arn't publishing your search history in the newspaper ..

      They are keeping it, and sharing it with secretive agencies. You may think you have nothing to hide, but you don't know which way the political wind will blow in the future. Maybe you'll be a dissident to those agencies later on...

      • Re:You don't (Score:5, Insightful)

        by causality (777677) on Sunday December 13, 2009 @05:24PM (#30425224)

        They arn't publishing your search history in the newspaper ..

        They are keeping it, and sharing it with secretive agencies. You may think you have nothing to hide, but you don't know which way the political wind will blow in the future. Maybe you'll be a dissident to those agencies later on...

        Anyone who has studied history and actually learned from it would come to the same conclusion. I'm amazed that there is anything resembling controversy over this.

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by nEoN nOoDlE (27594)

          If anyone has studied history, they'd realize that they're 1 person in the billions who have existed, and only a very, VERY small fraction of people throughout the entire history of the world have had their privacy infringed in the manner the poster is talking about. The general rule, historically speaking, is that nobody gives a crap what you're searching for and you probably think you're more important in the grand scheme of things than you really are.

    • Re:You don't (Score:5, Insightful)

      by bonch (38532) on Sunday December 13, 2009 @04:54PM (#30424982)

      Seriously.. despite all the controversy it has stirred up.. if you don't have anything to hide.. who cares

      Welcome to the new Slashdot, where everything Google does is great, and only people with something to hide would care about privacy.

      • Re:You don't (Score:5, Insightful)

        by selven (1556643) on Sunday December 13, 2009 @05:09PM (#30425090)

        only people with something to hide would care about privacy

        An entirely correct position. The place where the argument breaks down is that there's nothing wrong with having something to hide. For example, I would very much prefer it if my Slashdot password remains a secret, and there's nothing wrong with that.

      • Re:You don't (Score:5, Insightful)

        by TubeSteak (669689) on Sunday December 13, 2009 @05:19PM (#30425174) Journal

        Welcome to the new Slashdot, where everything Google does is great, and only people with something to hide would care about privacy.

        For people who don't 'get it', compare the situation to getting frisked by the police.
        The principle is exactly the same, but the practical difference is that Google's invasion of privacy
        causes you no inconvienence... which somehow makes it okay. Out of sight, out of mind.

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by alcmaeon (684971)

        "Welcome to the new Slashdot, where everything Google does is great, and only people with something to hide would care about privacy."

        Actually, that's the old Slashdot. The new Slashdot would be one where everyone was NOT a Google fanboy and didn't have their tongues all the way up Eric Schmid's ass.

    • Re:You don't (Score:4, Insightful)

      by sgage (109086) on Sunday December 13, 2009 @05:04PM (#30425048)

      "Seriously.. despite all the controversy it has stirred up.. if you don't have anything to hide.. who cares"

      Ah, the old "if you have nothing to hide" argument. So, we don't need any expectations of any privacy.

      To the degree that you really believe what you wrote there, you are an idiot.

    • Re:You don't (Score:5, Interesting)

      by LockeOnLogic (723968) on Sunday December 13, 2009 @05:13PM (#30425130)
      There was an old russian KGB adage which went something like "everyone has committed a crime, it's about who we decide to prosecute".
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by wvmarle (1070040)

      You can probably stay somewhat anonymous. As in: they know what you do, but not that it's YOU that's doing just that.

      It's like my Octopus card [wikipedia.org] used for public transport. The Octopus company knows exactly for what rides that card is used - where and when I get on or off the train, where and when I board a bus, the boats I take, the occasional newspaper or other purchase I make with it. And they keep those records for seven years.

      However what they do not know is that it's me. There is no name linked to the

  • by White Shade (57215)

    I guess in the end I fail to see what the big deal is.

    As long as Google isn't selling my financial data to unscrupulous persons and having me get billed all kinds of money for things I don't want, or creating a dossier on all the weird shit I've searched for and forwarding it to my boss, what's the big deal?

    So what if some marketers know everything about what I like to buy or look for? How, in the end, does that really affect my life? Yes, it's a bit creepy sometimes, but it makes no impact on my quality of

    • by bonch (38532) on Sunday December 13, 2009 @05:00PM (#30425016)

      As long as Google isn't selling my financial data to unscrupulous persons and having me get billed all kinds of money for things I don't want, or creating a dossier on all the weird shit I've searched for and forwarding it to my boss, what's the big deal?

      My, my. Slashdot sure has changed.

      If you let it slide that a company tracks everything you do, that then becomes the norm, and you no longer have any privacy anywhere. The opportunities for exploitation of this data are too numerous to list. You don't know whether or not Google is selling your data to unscrupulous persons, and with a CEO who says only wrongdoers have something to worry about when it comes to privacy, chances are that advertisers know all about you at this point.

      What *does* freak me out is how my credit card company can ask me to confirm my height and weight when I talk to them on the phone, and when I ask them how the f**k they found out how much I weigh, they tell me that by law they're allowed to download all the information from the Department of Transit and so they know everything that's on my drivers license. THAT's the kind of stuff that I find extremely scary, and that's the kind of thing you can't do anything at all to prevent other than living in a shack in the mountains somewhere.

      Let me get this straight. It's okay for a company to index all your information so that advertisers know everything you do, but it's "scary" when a credit card company does a good thing and uses info on your driver's license as a security confirmation over the phone? Are you for real?

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by wytcld (179112)

        Odds are Google isn't sending much info about you downstream - probably none at all. They're in the business of selling ads. The metric on ads is response - whether measured by click-throughs, or resulting sales-per-dollar-invested in the advertising campaign. Google isn't in the business of selling their data on you. They're in the business of selling advertisers advertising services which may be far more efficient in effectively reaching productive customers than any other place the advertisers can spend

    • by LockeOnLogic (723968) on Sunday December 13, 2009 @05:26PM (#30425236)

      What *does* freak me out is how my credit card company can ask me to confirm my height and weight when I talk to them on the phone, and when I ask them how the f**k they found out how much I weigh, they tell me that by law they're allowed to download all the information from the Department of Transit and so they know everything that's on my drivers license. THAT's the kind of stuff that I find extremely scary, and that's the kind of thing you can't do anything at all to prevent other than living in a shack in the mountains somewhere.

      But the sum of all your purchases, searches, emails ect... becomes a very accurate picture of who you are (or your behavior anyway). Google may not have nefarious intentions, but the profile now exists in a form which is not even promised to be private.

      Given the experience you had with the data sharing between corporations and government, I'm surprised you don't see the potential negatives. A profile of your whole life and lives of all those around you is just a subpoena away. Maybe less than that.

      • by lwsimon (724555) <lyndsy@lyndsysimon.com> on Sunday December 13, 2009 @05:35PM (#30425304) Homepage Journal

        The real issue is a generational one --- the younger generation doesn't have the expectation of privacy that the elder ones did.

        I'm 25, and I don't have anything "secret", really. I'm about as political as you can be, and I think there is a damned good chance (as those things go) that I'll be on the "list" of my own government in the future. The thing is, I don't see that there is any way to prevent being on that list without changing who I am, so I'm okay with that.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by LockeOnLogic (723968)
          I'm totally with you on that. I see the harms of the cliff we've fallen off of but realize the futility of flapping our arms.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by SpinyNorman (33776)

      or creating a dossier on all the weird shit I've searched for and forwarding it to my boss

      Well, they ARE creating that dossier (they've admitted to retaining all search queries), although supposedly anonymized.

      The thing is, Google may not be e-mailing it to your boss or anyone else, but since your search history is saved then there's a chance of it getting out. Maybe Google gets acquired by another company who's not interested in your privacy, maybe they get hacked, or a disgruntled ex-employee leaks it... What's the betting that it's totally anonymous anyway since as such it'd be of little use

  • Easy. (Score:3, Interesting)

    by John Hasler (414242) on Sunday December 13, 2009 @04:38PM (#30424818) Homepage

    Block Javascript, block all Google cookies, have no Google accounts. Occasionally permit scripts and cookies for long enough to look at a map (oh, and also block all advertising with Privoxy).

    Works for me, but I don't think I'm quite Google's idea of an ideal user (that's *user*, not *customer*).

  • You Don't (Score:5, Interesting)

    by phantomcircuit (938963) on Sunday December 13, 2009 @04:39PM (#30424828) Homepage

    If you are logged into gmail you cannot possibly retain your privacy.

    Short of deleting all google cookies and changing your ip after using gmail you cannot retain your privacy.

  • by paulthomas (685756) on Sunday December 13, 2009 @04:39PM (#30424830) Journal

    # cat > /etc/hosts
    > google.com 127.0.0.1
    > doubleclick.net 127.0.0.1
    > youtube.com 127.0.0.1
    > google-analytics.com 127.0.0.1
    > # ...
    > EOF

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      You missed a lot of other google owned ad tracking services & blocked the sites he wants to use. There are a huge list of google ad servers. Grab the hosts file from: http://www.mvps.org/winhelp2002/hosts.htm [mvps.org] they keep that updated & it'll block some of the other ad & spy stuff too.

      Also make sure 'Web History' isn't enabled on your google accounts (my account page), or when you're logged out (top right corner of search results).

      You have to give up some privacy as the cost of using their services

  • Thanks to 9/11 there arent anywhere on the world you can expect any privacy. Not online, not offline, not your medical records, your purchases, your bills or anything else thats in electronic form are private.

    Weather you use Bing, Hotmail, Gmail, Google doesnt matter the least bit since ALL of them logs everything and have to keep it and release it at any governments whim. The differences between them are highly superficial and has zero importance in reality. The terms of service from the different vendors are worth about, not a damn thing. They have to log everything and have to release whatever a court or intelligence agency wants released.

    If you dont want it read and scrutinized, dont put it online. Period.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Xtifr (1323)

      They have to log everything

      No. No they don't. If they do log it, then they may have to release it to a court or whatever, but I can say quite definitely that logging is not (yet) mandatory.

  • by pavon (30274) on Sunday December 13, 2009 @04:41PM (#30424848)

    I use my butler Jeeves for everything. He arranges my travel, does my bills, and picks up anything I need from the store. He is fast, courteous and usually reliable. At the same time I know that he is aware of everything I do; I can see it in the way he can often provide suggestions which tend to match my interests. Do to some misplaced comments of his, I am now suspicious that he may not respect my privacy. How do I remain anonymous from my butler while still having him provide all the personal services that I am accustomed to?

    • Re:Dear Slashdot (Score:4, Insightful)

      by vlm (69642) on Sunday December 13, 2009 @05:04PM (#30425044)

      I use my butler Jeeves for everything. He arranges my travel, does my bills, and picks up anything I need from the store. He is fast, courteous and usually reliable. At the same time I know that he is aware of everything I do; I can see it in the way he can often provide suggestions which tend to match my interests. Do to some misplaced comments of his, I am now suspicious that he may not respect my privacy. How do I remain anonymous from my butler while still having him provide all the personal services that I am accustomed to?

      You need a RAIB, often redundantly described as a RAIB array.

      "Redundant Array of Inexpensive Butlers"

      The worst privacy problem is cross correlating otherwise innocent isolated activities. Using multiple butlers prevents them from cross correlating. Of course, they may collude behind your back.

    • Re:Dear Slashdot (Score:4, Informative)

      by Xtifr (1323) on Sunday December 13, 2009 @05:07PM (#30425078) Homepage

      It's funny you should mention Jeeves, since the site formerly known as Ask Jeeves [ask.com] actually has better options for privacy (see the "AskEraser" feature in the upper right).

    • I use my butler Jeeves for everything.

      Now, if only Google would sign the same confidentiality agreement that Jeeves did. Oh and it would be nice if Google's fiscal priorities were aligned with maintaining my privacy like Jeeves's are rather than exploiting it.

  • Use adblock plus to block google analytics, don't use any social networking sites...

    Honestly, your best bet would be to get off the internet at this point.

  • by NoYob (1630681) on Sunday December 13, 2009 @04:43PM (#30424880)
    Do a search on whatever you're interested in. Then precede those searches with something completely random,like airplanes and explosives. Do your search on whatever you want and then follow it up with a search on say, "Islam".

    No one will pay any attention.

    • Do a search on whatever you're interested in. Then precede those searches with something completely random,like airplanes...

      Mod NoYob +5 "Scary+Funny"

  • by Old Flatulent 1 (1692076) on Sunday December 13, 2009 @04:45PM (#30424902)
    Justs Google it....oops!
  • by Yvan256 (722131)

    Ned: Phil? Hey, Phil? Phil! Phil Connors? Phil Connors, I thought that was you!
    Phil: Hi, how you doing? Thanks for watching.
    [Starts to walk away]
    Ned: Hey, hey! Now, don't you tell me you don't remember me because I sure as heckfire remember you.
    Phil: Not a chance.
    Ned: Ned... Ryerson. "Needlenose Ned"? "Ned the Head"? C'mon, buddy. Case Western High. Ned Ryerson: I did the whistling belly-button trick at the high school talent show? Bing! Ned Ryerson: got the shingles real bad senior year, almost didn't grad

  • You don't (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Gudeldar (705128) on Sunday December 13, 2009 @04:52PM (#30424966)

    It seems to me you have two options. 1) Accept the trade off of having Google uses your information for targeted advertising in exchange for their service. 2) Stop using Google's services.

    Use Bing instead of Google search. Switch to Hotmail, Yahoo Mail or use an email client. Use Bing's maps instead of Google Maps. etc. I don't think any of these options really ensure your privacy any better than using Google does but if your fear is of Google specifically (sort of irrational IMO) then these are options.

    Personally I don't mind the first option because honestly I'm not that interesting. I don't do anything with Google services that would be very interesting to anyone at Google or an intelligence service. There seems to be very little risk for a decent reward.

  • by bcrowell (177657) on Sunday December 13, 2009 @04:53PM (#30424970) Homepage

    I do my searches using clusty.com rather than google, for exactly this reason. In most cases, the search results are exactly the same quality as google's. It doesn't have certain specialized features that google has, e.g., book search and image search.

    A simple way of enhancing your privacy is to set your firefox preferences so that it deletes all cookies when you exit the browser, except for cookies from a specified whitelist. Edit : Preferences : privacy. Uncheck "accept third-party cookies." Firefox will: Use custom settings for history. Keep until: I close Firefox. Exceptions: [set your list of exceptions]

    But basically, if you completely hitch your wagon to gmail, google docs, etc., then I don't see how you can expect to preserve your privacy from being invaded by google. Google is an advertising company, and their whole business model revolves around selling your eyeballs.

  • by SuperCharlie (1068072) on Sunday December 13, 2009 @04:54PM (#30424980)
    Nothing is free and if you use their services, your privacy, at least in part, is the cost. If the price is too high, go somewhere else.
  • by ickleberry (864871) <web@pineapple.vg> on Sunday December 13, 2009 @05:04PM (#30425054) Homepage
    or if you do use gmail, encrypt everything you send with an external app, have all your emails forwarded to another non-gmail account.

    Running your own email server isn't exactly hard as long as your ISP is willing to change your PTR record and give you a static IP. Well worth it even just for the gains in privacy.

    For google search i would use an anonimisng proxy, run a http proxy (bandwidth limited) to muddle your searches in between other people's but you will get the much hated 'sorry, your computer is generating automated queries screen' and will sometimes have to enter a capcha in order to use google search the odd time
  • by stimpleton (732392) on Sunday December 13, 2009 @05:11PM (#30425112)
    I work for a company that supplies a specific unique service(Laboratory Service). I use a work gmail account for testing/backup. My personal email is not gmail. To my surprise after using gmail I starting getting spam to my personal account to do with Lab stuff. And some ads in gmail clearly are oriented to my personal stuff. As far as I know I have never crossed the two and strickly keep personal matters out of Gmail.

    As with a comment above, "if you have nothing to hide", I don't have anything to hide. But it is somewhat unsettling.
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      I get that lab stuff too. Just ignore it. It doesn't make any part of your body get larger.

  • by Ziekheid (1427027) on Sunday December 13, 2009 @05:17PM (#30425148)
    Here are some addons I use in Firefox that might be of use for some: CookieSafe, permanently ban google in specific from setting cookies (for example): https://addons.mozilla.org/en-US/firefox/addon/2497 [mozilla.org] Ghostery, See who's tracking your web browsing and block them automaticly. (trackers like google analytics, quantcast, etc) https://addons.mozilla.org/en-US/firefox/addon/9609 [mozilla.org] Torbutton,Provides a button to securely and easily enable or disable the browser's use of Tor. It is currently the only addon that will safely manage your Tor browsing to prevent IP address leakage, cookie leakage, and general privacy attacks. https://addons.mozilla.org/en-US/firefox/addon/2275 [mozilla.org]
  • by gmuslera (3436) on Sunday December 13, 2009 @05:19PM (#30425180) Homepage Journal
    You could not use any of their services (mail, picasa, maps, docs, etc), and block their ip range at your firewall, and use alternative search engines. But you want that? Not only you throw away some good services, for alternatives that could be inferior. They could care even less about your privacy (to put a couple of examples, noone complained a lot about how Yahoo could violate their privacy, till their price list [slashdot.org] was published, and even in their latest version Windows 7 phones home [softpedia.com], something that is not even internet based to be forced to do so).

    In the other hand, your "privacy" could be the line that separates a world of noise and spam to the real info you need. And Google services, specially when used in integrated form, could be pretty practical

  • by MarkWatson (189759) on Sunday December 13, 2009 @05:29PM (#30425256) Homepage

    For years, I have used one browser (Safari) for nothing but online banking. I now use Chrome for all google related browsing (GMail+Google Apps, Blogger, Reader).

    I do all other browsing on Firefox, blocking Google and most other cookies.

    This is slightly inconvenient because if someone emails me a link, I need to copy and paste it into Firefox - probably copy/paste links between Chrome and Firefox about 5 to 10 times a day so this is a small overhead.

    I usually use Google Search (on Firefox), but I also use Clusty and Bing.

  • Here's what I do... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Jah-Wren Ryel (80510) on Sunday December 13, 2009 @06:05PM (#30425542)

    1) Use different browser profiles for different web applications.

    If you start firefox with these options: -no-remote -ProfileManager it will allow you to run multiple copies simultaneously, each with a separate profile (different set of cookies, different set of plugins, different skins, different bookmarks, different histories, etc).

    I create a specific profile for each major web app - I have one for IMDB, one for google searches, one for google mail, one for google voice, etc. And one for generic browsing.

    Each profile has a couple of add-ons:
    Adblock Plus [mozilla.org] - general catch-all to block things like doubleclick and the million other trackers
    CookieSafe Lite [mozilla.org] - for fine-grained control of what sites can set cookies
    NoScript [mozilla.org] - for fine-grained control of what sites can use javascript and flash
    Redirect Cleaner [mozilla.org] - for removing those "bounce links" that a lot of sites use to track you when you follow a URL off their site, with the cleaner you go directly to the destination URL
    RefControl [mozilla.org] - for clearing out or rewriting the referrer URL - prevents sites from knowing where you came from when you clicked a URL to their site, sometimes helpful in accessing poorly 'restricted' content
    Targetted Advertising Cookie Opt-Out [mozilla.org] - sets special cookies that sites may choose to obey to say "don't profile me" since these TACOs are not unique-per-user, I figure it can't hurt although it probably doesn't do anything
    User Agent Switcher [mozilla.org] - Lets your browser identify itself as a different browser - this is very important
    Ghostery [mozilla.org] - Informational Only - tells you what tracking sites may be tracking you on any given page (does not block them, and you get false alarms on sites where NoScript blocks javascript, but it is still good for situational awareness)
    Better Privacy [mozilla.org] - Blocks new stealth "super cookies" in Flash and DOM Storage Objects. VERY IMPORTANT

    Using the above plugins, I do the following in each profile:
    1) Set NoScript to only allow javascript from the one website the profile is intended for - and block flash as much as possible regardless due to cross-profile flash cookies
    2) Set CookieSafe that same way and then only for per-session cookies
    3) Block and/or auto-delete Flash and DOM Storage cookies with Better Privacy - note flash cookies tend to be shared across all profiles because they go in a folder under "Documents & Settings" on MS Windows and ~/.macromedia/ on Linux. I am still looking at ways to force each profile to use a different directory for flash cookies - until then, block flash as much as possible and auto-delete cookies frequently
    4) Set the User Agent to be different in each profile - this gives the appearance of multiple users behind a firewall which is key
    5) Load a different theme or skin for each profile to make it easy to visually distinguish between windows so you don't accidentally start browsing the web from your gmail window or vice-versa

    All that is a little bit of a pain to set up, an hour or two total. But once in place, I think it is a reasonable compromise for reducing the risk of having your personally identifiable information gleaned in services like Google Mail from being automatically cross-referenced with your browsing habits. I am considering taking it a step further with FoxyProxy [mozilla.org] configurations to use

  • Wrong Problem (Score:4, Insightful)

    by ceeam (39911) on Sunday December 13, 2009 @06:18PM (#30425648)

    Your ISP knows much, much more about you than Google does.

  • by GF678 (1453005) on Sunday December 13, 2009 @07:30PM (#30426144)

    I notice several posts have been made regarding the current Slashdot con census regarding privacy. When some people say that they aren't worried about any privacy issues because they're too insignifant to care about as far as Google's concerned, some others pipe up and comment that in the "old days" of Slashdot, they'd be in the extreme minority, whereas nowadays it's fairly common to see this opinion.

    Here's the problem - there IS no privacy on the Internet anymore. Compared to the old days of Slashdot, surveillance and logging has become so commonplace and pervasive, that even if you don't put your particulars on the Internet yourself, someone else might do it themselves. A good example would be a friend who uploads a picture on Facebook which has you tagged, even if you don't use Facebook. Heck, if you don't use it, you may not even know the picture exists until it's brought to your attention. At the very least, it's hard to remain isolated from the privacy issues of the Internet, short of becoming a hermit and avoiding any social contact.

    So the reason privacy is being given up, as seen by some people, is because it's frigging tiring to have to check, double-check, workaround and in the end, give-up the fun and useful services and technologies available to us on the Internet, because very little of them respect total privacy. It's also hard to justify such extreme paranoia when it's highly unlikely you'll encounter any actual problems, so long as you use common sense.

    In the end, we're all gonna die anyway, so freaking RELAX. Whatever privacy issues you were concerned about won't matter an iota regardless of whether you get buried, cremated or shot out of a canon into the sun.

    PS. There's also the tiny fact that you WON'T CONVINCE EVERYONE about the importance of privacy anymore. That boat has sailed, given how much Facebook is used as a benchmark. So don't fret about worried how how you think privacy is becoming extinct. If you want to live in the modern digital age, it already has...

  • by fifirebel (137361) on Sunday December 13, 2009 @07:51PM (#30426270)
    Install the following:

    Then configure CookieSafe to "Deny Cookies Globally" (you can easily make exceptions for some sites). BetterPrivacy and TrackMeNot come with suitable defaults.

    With this set-up, no cookies will be created. DOM Storage (super-cookies) and flash cookies will be wiped whenever you close your browser. And you will gently spam Google and other search engines with random searches, just in case they do tracking by IP addresses.

    You may also want to throw in:

    • FlashBlock and AdBlockPlus, to make the web more... uh... readable.
    • NoScript, if you're paranoid.
  • by Hecatonchires (231908) on Sunday December 13, 2009 @08:10PM (#30426370) Homepage
    I'm paralysed by choice. I want to use all these products and services this company offers, but they don't want money, they just want to make a record when I use them. Please help.

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