Google has become increasingly intrusive over the years. Keep all your location-related settings off, and she still knows where you are. And if that’s enough, she’ll shamelessly ask you to write a review about the place.
If privacy means nothing to you, there is no problem. But in case you’re one of those thousands who is growing increasingly suspicious and concerned with overly greedy and careless businesses like Google, Apple and of course Facebook, I guess now is a good time to think of how we can curtain their intrusion and influence in our lives.
Towards trying to claw-back some of our privacy, I bounced off the idea of a browser to an online community. Here’s a bit about the idea, along with some views that came in.
Your thoughts and ideas are welcome.
I just made up the term ‘buffer browser’ for it.
Consider creating a web browser that uses Google to search and display results back to you. The difference being, that on the back-end, it also continuously fires random other search queries to Google (without displaying those results for you).
How does that make a difference? Because then Google won’t know which of the multiple search queries from your browser are really yours (and which a distraction by your browser). That way, it will be able to “spy, gather and create” a far lesser accurate profile of you.
One concern would be the multiple searches slowing down the machine. But maybe that can be handled. The objective being Google not getting to know which queries were yours, and which were ‘decoys’ from your browser.
What do you think?
Anon.1: Google could identify and block automated behaviour, especially if it was a non-stop, background process. Your solution would have to appear somewhat human in order to pass basic bot filters.
Me: Even a few but very diverse searches might do the trick.
Anon.2: How about make an anonymous collection of common searches. Say with tens of thousands of people with varied interests, and shuffle them among all those people.
That way the searches are “real”, and Google has no way of figuring out which one belongs to whom.
One weakness in that technique would be that they could put together a coherent “story” for example if you have five consecutive searches about cows, they’ll know that those are your searches and not one of the randomly chosen ones. Placing random biases on the decoy searches themselves may mitigate that.
Me: The collating and mixing of search queries by multiple users did cross my mind. However, in such a case, the company building the browser would need to have some strong ethical foundations, so as not to just have spawned Google’s inquisitiveness into another effort at gathering user data.
Other suggestions came in to simply switch to DuckDuckGo (DDG). I have used DDG, and search results are nowhere as effective and relevant as Google.
Someone pointed out that DDG shows us what we are looking for, while Google shows us what it wants us to see. While that is highly possible, as search was the core of Google’s founding business, they’re really gone to unbelievable lengths to perfect it. And our problem is not so much with their search (which surely is biased at the moment). But rather, with trying to reduce the amount of our information it constantly captures, even without our consent.
Finally, someone mentioned an already existing solution. Two actually.
- https://www.startpage.com/ , that is a search engine that uses Google for search results, without allowing it user access. Not sure how that works, but worth a try…, and
- https://cs.nyu.edu/trackmenot/ , which is a browser extension that helps protect web searchers from surveillance and data-profiling by search engines.
Thing is, a bulk of the world currently uses Google’s Chrome browser, which might surely negate the privacy that the above two services offer.
One option would be to switch to a different browser and use one of the above two (or any similar) services.
Consider a non-Google browser and StartPage for search. That might be a good first step to reduce Google’s influence on you.
Thoughts and ideas are welcome. Let’s see if we can collaborate on making something possible to limit companies from making billions off of our personal information. And then from influencing our behaviour and buying decisions.
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