They Know What You’re Thinking

By Lee Bellinger / November 12, 2013

They Know What You’re Thinking
by What You Search for Online

In many ways, defending your privacy in our modern society is illegal at worst and impractical at best. However, our philosophy holds that if you are less visible than 99% of everyone else, you still have your privacy.
Computer Privacy
Generally speaking, we do not lose too much sleep over the FBI. However, when this agency is granted new powers, ALL OTHER AGENCIES OF THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT PRETTY MUCH GAIN THE SAME CAPABILITY. Especially the Treasury Department and its IRS minions.
So it matters that back in 2008, then-Attorney General Michael Mukasey relaxed the FBI’s investigative guidelines allowing agents to pry into your life with NO evidence you are doing, or have done, anything wrong.
This year, it gains more potentially abusive power because agents are allowed to snoop and search through your private life WITHOUT making any record that the search ever took place and without any factual basis of wrongdoing.
They can do this to “find something on you” simply to coerce you to inform on someone else, like a golf buddy or loved one.
When you perform an online search through a search engine like Google, Bing, or Yahoo, the words and phrases you type into the search engine, and then, the destination-websites you visit because of that search, can be scrutinized in a similar way as analyzing your reading material. For instance, “ladies shoes,” “overseas retirement destinations,” “foreign bullion vaults,” or “hunting equipment.”

Two Simple Methods
to Keep Your Online Searches
More Private and Confidential

1) ‘Encrypted’ Google search: The non-default, but more secure way to use Google
What’s good:
  • It’s simple to start. Once you’re on the Google website, add an “S” in the browser url just after, “http.” In other words, change “http” into “https”: https://www.google.com/. This encrypts the connection from your computer to Google’s servers, by using a Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) connection. (By convention, urls that require an SSL connection, or have it as an option, start with https instead of http.)Google is Watching
  • If you’re on a public Wi-Fi, and someone is electronically eavesdropping (“sniffing”), that person or software program will only capture the encrypted message, not the search terms you’re typing into Google.
  • The encrypted connection should keep your searches confidential even from your ISP.
  • When you click to the third-party destination website, from the search engine results page, the destination website doesn’t know that you came from Google – or what search term you used to reach the site.

What to beware of:
  • Google is keeping track of your Internet Protocol (IP) address. Try typing “Pizza” into either the regular Google search engine or the secure encrypted version. A local map of pizza joints in your area is likely to pop up. That’s only possible because Google tracks your IP address.
  • When you click to the destination website from the search engine results page, the destination website will then be able to “see” your IP address (although they may not know what terms you typed to get there, or that you came through Google).
  • Once on a third-party destination website, it may be able to load tracking cookies onto your browser or scan the cookies already on your computer and see the other websites you’ve visited.
  • When you click to the third-party destination website from the search engine results page, you leave the protection of the encrypted connection. Snoopers and your ISP can now see what website you’re on.

2) Ixquick.com: The privacy-centered search engine
What’s good:
  • They are a search engine that advocates your privacy.
  • They don’t record your IP address. Run the same “Pizza” test, and you’ll see that no local pizza joints appear in the search results.
  • They don’t use unique session cookies, which can be used to identify you and track you.

    IX Quick
  • They don’t log or record your activity on their search engine.
  • They have an encrypted option, just like Google. Add an “s” in the browser url just after, “http”: https://www.ixquick.com/.
  • The encrypted option keeps your search confidential from electronic eavesdroppers and your ISP.
  • They have a proxy option for additional privacy, explained below.

What to beware of:
  • All the same concerns mentioned in the encrypted Google search above related to clicking away from the safety of the Ixquick search engine and landing on a third-party website.
  • However, as a remedy, Ixquick has the option to view a third-party, destination website with the additional security of a web-based proxy.
  • All you need to do is click on the underlined word – “Proxy” – next to the search result.

    According to Ixquick:

    • Ixquick goes to the website you select, retrieves the page, and displays it for you.

    • You are invisible to the website. They see only Ixquick’s IP address, not yours.

    • Since you never make direct contact with the website, they can’t see or store cookies on your browser.
    • You can click on linked pages from the website and the Ixquick proxy will display those for you too.
    • While using the proxy, you are protected at all times by Ixquick’s outstanding privacy policy. (No IP address recorded, no identifying cookies used, no search or browsing activity stored.)
    • For security reasons, you cannot use the proxy to fill out forms with text input.
    • The proxy removes the “javascript” code of visited sites, so some features may not work.
    • The proxy will not load frames that reside on a different external domain than the referrer.

Lastly, if the third-party website has links that lead out to other websites, Ixquick’s proxy protection can’t follow you. As an example, say you perform a search for:
  1. “American work trucks;”
  2. “Ford” comes up as third-party website option;
  3. You click on the proxy option to view “Ford;”
  4. You are now on the website behind the Ixquick proxy protection feature;
  5. You can click around Ford’s website under the proxy protection.
But, if you want to click on an ad for more information on “car insurance” – and that link directs you to the “Farmer’s Insurance” website – Ixquick’s proxy protection can’t “follow” you to that new website. You’ll have to go directly there without Ixquick’s proxy protection or run a new search for “car insurance” or “FarmersInsurance.com.”
[Note: Ixquick has a relationship with Google called Startpage.com. Apparently, it’s for those who wish to use Ixquick privacy features while receiving only Google’s search results. The original Ixquick.com search engine works just fine and serves search results from multiple search engines. So you typically receive a broader base of search results.]
Using these two options enable you to keep your thoughts and online search behavior confidential from overzealous government busybodies or other snoops who may wish to draw conclusions about you.