Leaving Google for DuckDuckGo

Believe it or not, there is a search engine that doesn't invade your online privacy.

| Fall 2014

  • I had broken free from Google, and the world was still on its axis. I had mastered another service and could still find the information I needed.
    Photo by Flickr/Robert Scoble

I don’t dislike Google. In fact, Google has tried hard to be transparent about surveillance. It was the first big internet company to start publicly reporting the number of law enforcement requests it received. It has been active in the coalition pushing for reform of the electronic communications privacy law. And Google is appealing the government’s gag order that prevents it from revealing how many requests it receives from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court.

But Google has also repeatedly abused users’ trust. In 2010, Google launched a social networking tool called Buzz that automatically listed people as “followers” of people with whom they frequently e-mailed or chatted on Gmail. Users who clicked on a button “Sweet! Check out Buzz,” were not adequately informed that the identity of their closest Gmail contacts would be made public. Google later agreed to settle charges by the Federal Trade Commission that Buzz was deceptive, and paid $8.5 million to settle a class action lawsuit about Buzz. In 2012, my colleagues and I broke the news that Google was bypassing the privacy settings of the Safari browser used by millions of iPhone and other Apple users by using a special computer code to trick their browsers into allowing Google tracking. Later that year, Google agreed to pay $22.5 million to settle the FTC charges that its Apple circumvention had violated the terms of its Google Buzz settlement. The $22.5 million settlement was, at the time, the FTC’s largest civil penalty of the kind. And in 2013, Google agreed to pay $7 million to settle with attorneys generals from 38 states and the District of Columbia who claimed that Google violated people’s privacy when its Street View cars inadvertently collected personal information from Wi-Fi networks.

I also have too much data stored with Google. My audit revealed that Google had stored all of my searches dating back to 2006 and had identified all 2,192 people that I had e-mailed in that time. [Editor’s note: To find out what Google and other companies knew about her, Angwin conducted a “data audit.” To find her Google data, she primarily explored the information available in her Gmail account settings.] Given the outdated privacy laws, I couldn’t expect the company to keep all that data secret. I needed to go on a Google data diet.

I started by quitting Google search.

I’d been annoyed about the change in Google’s privacy policy, announced in 2012, that allowed Google to combine information from its various services, for example, using information about my searches to show me customized ads on Gmail. Google also doesn’t delete search history related to my account unless I delete it myself. (If I search from a computer where I am not signed in to a Google account, it will remove some identifiers from the data after nine months). Theoretically, that means the government can ask Google for all my searches dating back to 2006. No such requests have been disclosed publicly, but the availability of search history seems like an open invitation for fishing expeditions.

8/13/2016 9:58:28 AM

You're making me work too hard to get to the "Leaving Google for DuckDuckGo" part of the article (and, DO YOU have any conflicts of interest, regarding this article?). Also, while revealing Google's malfeasance and duplicity, you should be describing, specifically, how to delete, outmaneuver, and otherwise avoid Google's invasiveness (or tell us if there IS a way). Of course, I have only read the first page of FIVE, and the article APPEARS to be from Fall 2014,in which time Google may have completely revamped its tactics. Finally, please reveal Google's new Master, a multinational corporation called "Alphabet"; it's no longer run by a bunch of ivy leagueish young billionaires with only the purestmotives in their hearts. My comment on facebook: Beware of leaving a comment. They want as much info as Alphabet-Google does!

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