Your business and promoting your business is important. So is your privacy. You do not want competitors to know what you may be currently researching. You do not want to provide any avenue where they could potentially find out what your plans are. As a business, you may be interested to learn what your competitors are doing or what your customers think. There remains the dilemma and conflict.
Sign into your Google account.
Go to https://www.google.com/history
Click “remove all Web History.”
In the Six Tips to Protect Your Search Privacy, available from September 14, 2006 By Peter Eckersley, Seth Schoen, Kevin Bankston, and Derek Slater describes way to protect yourself.
The Electronic Frontier Foundation has developed the following search privacy tips. They range from straightforward steps to more complicated measures offering near-complete safety.
1. Don’t put personally identifying information in your search terms (easy)
Don’t search for your name, address, credit card number, social security number, or other personal information. These kinds of searches can create a roadmap right to your doorstep. They could also expose you to identity theft and other privacy invasions.
2. Don’t use your ISP’s search engine (easy)
Because your ISP knows who you are, it will be able to link your identity to your searches. It will also be able to link all your individual search queries into a single search history. So, if you are a Comcast broadband subscriber, for instance, you should avoid using http://search.comcast.net.
3. Don’t login to your search engine or related tools (intermediate)
Search engines sometimes give you the opportunity to create a personal account and login. In addition, many engines are affiliated with other services. When you log into the search engine or one of those other services, your searches can be linked to each other and to your personal account.
•Install two different web browsers to separate your search activities from your other accounts with the search provider.
•For Google and its services, you can use the Mozilla Firefox web browser and the CustomizeGoogle plugin software. Go to http://www.customizegoogle.com/ and click “Install.” Restart Firefox and then select “CustomizeGoogle Options” from the “Tools” menu. Click on the “Privacy” tab and turn on “Anonymize the Google cookie UID.” You must remember to quit your browser after using GMail and before using the Google search engine. In addition, be sure not to select the “remember me on this computer” option when you log into a Google service.
If you are using a browser other than Firefox, you can use the GoogleAnon bookmarklet, which you can obtain at http://www.imilly.com/google-cookie.htm. You will need to quit your browser every time you finish with a Google service. Unfortunately, we currently do not know of similar plugins for other search providers.
4. Block “cookies” from your search engine (intermediate)
If you’ve gone through the steps above, your search history should no longer have personally identifying information all over it. However, your search engine can still link your searches together using cookies and IP addresses.
Cookies are small chunks of information that websites can put on your computer when you visit them. Among other things, cookies enable websites to link all of your visits and activities at the site. Since cookies are stored on your computer, they can let sites track you even when you are using different Internet connections in different locations. But when you use a different computer, your cookies don’t come with you.
Use the following steps to allow only “session cookies,” and remember to quit your browser at least once a day but ideally after each visit to your search provider’s site.
Mozilla Firefox - apply these settings:
• From the “Edit” menu, select “Preferences”
• Click on “Privacy”
• Select the “Cookies” tab
• Set “Keep Cookies” to “until I close Firefox” 12
• Click on “Exceptions,” type in the domains of all of your search sites, and choose “Block” for all of them
If you use Microsoft Internet Explorer to surf the web:
• From the Internet Explorer “Tools” menu, select “Internet Options”
• Click on the “Privacy” tab and then press the “Advanced” button
• Click on “Override automatic cookie handling”
• Set both “first party” and “third party” cookies to “Block”
• Select “Always allow session cookies”
5. Vary your IP address (intermediate)
When you connect to the Internet, your ISP assigns your computer an “IP address” Search providers — and other services you interact with online — can see your IP address and use the number to link together all of your searches. IP addresses are particularly sensitive because they can be directly linked to your ISP account via your ISP’s logs. Unlike cookies, your IP address does not follow your computer wherever it goes; for instance, if you use your laptop at work, it will have a different IP address than when you use it at home.
6. Use web proxies and anonymizing software like Tor (advanced)
To hide your IP address from the web sites you visit or the other computers you communicate with on the Internet, you can use other computers as proxies for your own — you send your communication to the proxy; the proxy sends it to the intended recipient; and the intended recipient responds to the proxy. Finally, the proxy relays the response back to your computer. All of this sounds complicated, and it can be, but luckily there are tools available that can do this for you fairly seamlessly.
Tor (http://www.torproject.org) is a software product that encrypts then sends your Internet traffic through a series of randomly selected computers, thus obscuring the source and route of your requests. It allows you to communicate with another computer on the Internet without that computer, the computers in the middle, or eavesdroppers knowing where or who you are. Tor is not perfect, but it would take a sophisticated surveillance effort to thwart its protections.
You also need to make sure your messages don’t reveal who you are. Privoxy (http://www.privoxy.org) helps with this, because it strips out hidden identifying information from the messages you send to web sites. Privoxy also has the nice side benefit of blocking most advertisements and can be configured to manage cookies. (Privoxy comes bundled with Tor downloads.)
You can also use web proxies like Anonymizer’s (http://www.anonymizer.com) Anonymous Surfing. This option is more user-friendly but possibly a less effective method of anonymizing your browsing. Anonymizer routes your web surfing traffic through their own proxy server and hides your IP address from whatever web sites you visit.
Tor and Privoxy downloads and instructions can be found here: http://www.torproject.org/download.html.en