Academic journal article Journal of Accountancy

Searching for Privacy

Academic journal article Journal of Accountancy

Searching for Privacy

Article excerpt

Q I've heard that search engines such as Google and Yahoo! keep a record of your searches and the websites you visit and that they often share this personal information with other companies. I don't do anything illicit on the internet, but I'm still not comfortable with these search engines recording my every move. Are there any measures I can take to keep my searches and internet browsing more private?

A You've heard correctly; many of the popular search engines keep track of your every search and then effectively sell that information to advertisers so they can specifically target you according to your digital profile. Microsoft Bing (bing.com) reportedly keeps your search data for 18 months, as does Yahoo! (yahoo.com), but apparently Google (google .com) plans to retain your search data indefinitely. Even if these search engine companies do nothing intrusive with your search history data, they may be targeted by external hackers as high-value loot. Your search history data might also be vulnerable to internal employees seeking to resell them on the black market. Consider that just last year, Edward Snowden, a contractor working for the National Security Administration, was able to steal large volumes of sensitive data from the highly secretive organization. If one of the world's most secure organizations is unable to protect its data, why should we expect other organizations to do so?

The good news is that there are reasonable, proactive measures you can take to protect your internet activity. Specifically, the following two solutions claim to help prevent your internet searches and browsing activities from being tracked.

1. DuckDuckGo (duckduckgo.com) (free). This search engine claims it doesn't track who you are or save any search data, so your search privacy is more assured, and the result is far less spam and clutter. On the negative side, DuckDuckGo does not report how many search results it finds, but it otherwise operates similar to the more popular search engines. …

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