An Act of Privacy

I’ve been creeped out and generally dismayed about Google for quite awhile now. They shut down popular services. They limit your potential to see interesting things via filter bubbles.

They distract us from their real intent (and real profit engine) with self-driving cars and floating internet balloons {npr}.

It seems their desire to learn everything about us so they can sell that information back to advertisers is limitless.

Enter Google Mine {an unofficial google blog}, a new service that wants to know everything you own and want to own:

Google Mine lets you share your belongings with your friends and keep up to date with what your friends are sharing. It enables you to control which of your Google+ Circles you share an item with. It also lets you rate and review the items, upload photos of them and share updates on the Google+ Stream where your friends get to see and comment on them.

Via {daring fireball}.

Like I said, I’ve been skeptical about Google and their true intentions before. But the recent NSA leaks have accelerated my desire to limit my digital footprint, especially the one I leave behind with Google.

I’ve been using DuckDuckGo for search instead of Google for a few months now. It takes some getting used to, but I rarely switch over to Google to find what I’m looking for now. And apparently I’m not the only one: DuckDuckGo has been experiencing a surge in traffic {npr} since the controversial NSA program was revealed.

I moved all my mail from Gmail to my own server. I suppose the NSA can still track my emails, but it’ll be more difficult now. Besides, Gmail is free because Google benefits from the data it hosts. My data.

I don’t have much information on Facebook nor do I use the service very often, and I plan on keeping it that way.

Then there’s Apple. Yes, they were implicated in the recent NSA revelations. But check out their statement on the matter:

Apple has always placed a priority on protecting our customers’ personal data, and we don’t collect or maintain a mountain of personal details about our customers in the first place. There are certain categories of information which we do not provide to law enforcement or any other group because we choose not to retain it.

For example, conversations which take place over iMessage and FaceTime are protected by end-to-end encryption so no one but the sender and receiver can see or read them. Apple cannot decrypt that data. Similarly, we do not store data related to customers’ location, Map searches or Siri requests in any identifiable form.

Apple is a company that makes money from selling us cool new stuff. Google and Facebook make money from our information.

I’m much more comfortable with the former.

Duck Duck Go

DuckDuckGo is a search engine company based in Paoli, PA.

What makes DuckDuckGo remarkable is their pledge to privacy, a mantle Google doesn’t even attempt to claim anymore. Their results are also less cluttered and more easily browsed;  matches load automatically as you scroll down (as opposed to pressing the “Next” link in Google), for one.

For two, you can search any external site using DuckDuckGo. Just type what you want to search for (i.e. “socks”) followed by an exclamation point and the site you want to search (i.e. amazon.com). So a search of socks !amazon would display the amazon.com results for “socks.” There’s a time-saving tool Google wouldn’t let you bypass their ads for.

From a recent article in The Washington Post {via daring fireball}:

“My thesis for the company was, what can we do that other search engines, because they’re big, can’t do easily?” Weinberg said. “Because what’s good for Google business is bad for Google users.”

So: DuckDuckGo does not track users. It doesn’t generate search results based on a user’s previous interests, potentially filtering out relevant information. It is not cluttered with ads. In many ways, DuckDuckGo is an homage the original Google — a pure search engine — and its use is soaring, with searches up from 10 million a month in October 2011 to 45 million this past October.