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Now that the web has pretty much become a necessity for most people we spend a lot of time on search engines looking up just about everything under the sun. Of course the go to search engine for years now is Google. And why not? Google has been a pioneer in search engine technology and currently performs more than 1 trillion searches per year. Not to mention Google is a popular tech company with their Chrome browser, Android OS for smart phones and their innovations in cloud computing, artificial intelligence and virtual reality. Great but there is a downside to almighty Google and that is privacy.

Basically you have no or limited privacy when you use google search. That’s because google saves web search data and they track your searchs and tie that to your browser using cookies. Well they track much more information about you if you log into google while you search. But even if you don’t and you search ‘anonymously’ you are still being tracked. Consider all the things you look up on the web….you political interests, restaurants, the type of news that interests you, how to fix your car, religious information etc. Even if they don’t tie  that information to your identity when you combine all that search data you can paint a stunningly accurate picture of a person. And thats just what they do, paint a picture of you with your search data. Why? To deliver better search results to you and to target ads and other sales pitches.

But what else might they do with that data, thats the 20 million dollar question. They might give that data to the government and even if they don’t its arguably already accessible to the NSA (thanks for enlightening us Edward Snowden!). They might sell that data to third parties so they can sell you things or market services to you. Do you ever search for things you’d rather keep private, well your searches are not private. Ever notice how after you search for something you start seeing ads related to that search even when you are not on google.com. Thats because your being tracked and a cookie (small data file) is being saved on your computer to tie your browser to the tracked search history so other websites know about what you like, without your knowledge.

The good news is there are alternatives. One of the most popular one and the one I use is called DuckDuckGo. They bill themselves as the search engine that doesn’t track you or censor the content returned to you. At a time when our privacy is severely under threat from all directions, alternatives like this become all the more important. There is no reason we can’t have reasonable privacy in the digital age. In fact we must to maintain a free society. The people at DuckDuckGo are doing their part to create that. Don’t be tracked!