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Google Privacy Your Rights Online

Hiding From Google 228

penguinrecorder writes "Google offers Web users a simple trade-off: Let the search giant track a substantial portion of your comings and goings around the Web, and it will offer you a free, superior online experience. Now independent security researcher Moxie Marlinspike is making Web users a counter-offer: take Google's giveaways and keep your privacy too. On Tuesday, Marlinspike launched a service he calls GoogleSharing, a plug-in for Firefox designed to give users access to Google's online offerings while cloaking their identity from the company's data collection tools. By hosting a proxy server with a collection of Google 'identities,' the privacy software will allow users temporarily to route their traffic through another computer that masks their identity by mixing their online actions with those of other users. The system is totally transparent, with no special 'alternative' websites to visit. Your normal work flow should be exactly the same." GoogleSharing only works for those services not requiring a Google login; for the latter, no proxying is done.
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Hiding From Google

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  • by Arthur Grumbine ( 1086397 ) on Tuesday January 19, 2010 @08:15PM (#30826730) Journal
    They've had an opt out option for a long time [theonion.com].
    • it's all a MS thing. You don't hear this level of frezy about bing or yahoo, do ya? You don't even have an opt out from bing, as far as I can see.

      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by MrNaz ( 730548 ) *

        Last I checked Bing didn't have a cookie-enabled advertisement widget that doubled as a user tracking point on every second web site on the internet. Neither does Yahoo.

        Google is the only company that has such a pervasive ability to watch you. Google Ads means they can track you even if you never, ever visit google.com. Once you visit a page with Google Ads, you get a google-sourced cookie and they can track your movement through every other Google Ad toting page until you clear your cookies again.

        Oh, and G

        • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

          by JWSmythe ( 446288 )

          There are others besides searching on Google, and Google Ads. You forgot about Google Analytics, and embedded "site" Google Searches. They show up in most pages these days. How about when someone embeds a YouTube video? They bought Doubleclick a few years ago, so there's another datamining source.

          Google is embedded in enough places to make themselves rather difficult to avoid.

          You are quite likely right, I wouldn't be surprised if there are more than just a fe

        • 1) Browse through your ISP proxy (you often get faster access as a benefit)
          2) Adblock plus google-analytics (not just google ads)

  • by LostCluster ( 625375 ) * on Tuesday January 19, 2010 @08:16PM (#30826732)
    In Google we trust. In Moxie Marlinspike who wants to be in a position to collect all our Google non-logged-in content... nope.
    • by natehoy ( 1608657 ) on Tuesday January 19, 2010 @08:19PM (#30826764) Journal

      My thoughts exactly. It's free, so he's gotta be paying for it somehow, right? Or is he a known philanthropist who has a long track record of protecting privacy? Nope, didn't think so.

      • Yep... when Steve Gibson says "I'm going to port scan you... if your alarms go off that means they're working!" he also says "Would you like to buy a copy of SpinRite?"

        "No visible means of support" is a reason to keep an investigation going. Nobody can fund something without a source of income from somewhere.... so what is this guy selling?

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by WiseWeasel ( 92224 )

          There's always the chance that this service doesn't take any significant centralized resources to keep running, as in the users are made to contribute the bandwidth and CPU resources needed to keep it running.

          • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

            by klingens ( 147173 )

            A distributed service like has existed for years now, so there's not really a need for a replacement. It's called http://tor.eff.org/ [eff.org]

          • There's always the chance that this service doesn't take any significant centralized resources to keep running, as in the users are made to contribute the bandwidth and CPU resources needed to keep it running.

            All systems take some resource to operate, even if it just the human resource to manage everything. Human resource is often the most expensive.

        • There is another web site providing the same service, the badly named: Scroogle [scroogle.org].
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by cstec ( 521534 )
      If you trust Google, great, but don't say "we". Google's changed - a lot. Given the breaches, and their relentless march of ever more invasive monitoring on every device and platform they can get their fingers into, I trust this random stranger more than Google. Google is a proven risk, this guy's just a potential one.
      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by indi0144 ( 1264518 )
        How is Google invasive? Does it make the keyboard grow a hand and grab your balls until you set up your homepage on google.com? You trust more a random stranger that a big corp that can get some sever financial risk for messing with your privacy? Did you receive candy from strangers when you were kid? I keep hearing about the privacy issues and all the crap, but AFAIK, I haven't seen the first blog post (the most paranoid source of information) about anything close to privacy invasion.

        If you don't want to g
        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by jbn-o ( 555068 )

          Google desktop search indexes your documents in order to provide a quick search service. There's no way users can be sure the indices aren't shared with Google, despite no technical need to do so in order to provide that desktop user with a quick search of their own data. If Google gets any sensitive data, who's to know how many people get a copy of that data from Google? I imagine this is why institutions with sensitive data tell their workers they are not allowed to install Google Desktop, despite any

          • Some educational institutions can't reveal the existence of students at their school (in the US there is the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act [wikipedia.org] which protects student privacy including divulging whether the person is a student at a particular school).

            If that's the case, they wouldn't be able to offer a e-mail service for their students at all, even if hosted on their own server.

            Want to test the existence of a given user (student) at the school? Just send him a mail: bounce => student does not exist. No bounce => student does exist.

            Or they could, but it would be a hassle for everyone involved (obscure user names. policy to never send out a bounce)

        • by Anachragnome ( 1008495 ) on Wednesday January 20, 2010 @01:26AM (#30828698)

          "How is Google invasive?"

          Have you ever used the NoScript extension for Firefox? Have you ever paid attention to what NoScript is blocking?

          I'd say that 80-90% of the websites I end up at have at least www.google-analytics.com or www.google.com trying to run script. I'd call the unauthorized running of script on my computer invasive. Regardless of what they say to the contrary, I have not given them permission to run script on my computer, and have had to resort to actions to prevent it.

          Learned use of NoScript is probably THE best way (even better with ABP and a harsh cookie policy) of making sure that Google does not have you in their evil clutches.

          And, it is free. As in beer.

          • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

            by webreaper ( 1313213 )

            "Unauthorized running of scripts on my computer"?

            By visiting the site, you authorised it. If you don't want those scripts run, don't visit the site.

            It's a bit like saying "unauthorised filming of me by CCTV when I walk into a branch of Sainsburys". If you don't like it, you can do the other thing.

            • by pmontra ( 738736 )

              By visiting the site, you authorised it. If you don't want those scripts run, don't visit the site.

              You don't know what a site wants to run inside your browser unless you access the site so using a plugin like NoScript is the only thing to do if you want to have a chance to authorize some scripts and reject others.

          • Just add google-analytics.com and others to your host file, pointing to localhost

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Girtych ( 1345935 )
        I'd trust a proven risk far more than an unknown risk. At least with the former, we know its limits.
      • by a1terego ( 912274 ) on Tuesday January 19, 2010 @09:05PM (#30827130)

        Google is a proven risk, this guy's just a potential one.

        This is misleading statement. Simple risk analysis: Google is a KNOWN risk with very substantial assets to lose if they screw up. This guy is an UNKNOWN risk with (presumably) a lot less to lose.

    • I Call Trojan (Score:3, Insightful)

      by oztiks ( 921504 )

      So I'm supposed to install this Proxy add on, then put my google account details, that has my google docs and google checkout account?

      Ummm .... no

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by CAIMLAS ( 41445 )

      The irony is that Google probably doesn't care all that much about a specific user, or users as an individual. They're looking for types of users and their associated buying habits.

  • by Arancaytar ( 966377 ) <arancaytar.ilyaran@gmail.com> on Tuesday January 19, 2010 @08:16PM (#30826736) Homepage

    "Instead of sending your private information to Google directly, use my awesome proxy server to send your private information to Google anonymously. I promise I will not snoop any more than Google does!"

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by KiloByte ( 825081 )

      While you can use the server he provides, you can download the proxy software and run it on a machine you control. Of course, this really reduces the pool of identities you will be mixed with -- to 1 unless you organize some other folks to use your proxy as well.

    • by Arthur Grumbine ( 1086397 ) on Tuesday January 19, 2010 @08:22PM (#30826792) Journal
      1. Setup proxy for paranoids
      2. Data mine the search habits of paranoids
      3. ????
      4. Profit!
      • Alex Jones makes a great living off the paranoid.

      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by Anonymous Coward

        This is a good point- posting anonymously because I work in the media research industry... When I go to trade shows, I have guys coming up to me trying to sell me panelist data like it's drugs... I'm serious. It is people like this guy that are just trying to collect a buttload of data and then try and find someone to buy it. You have your big players like comScore and Nielsen that rely primarily on their large panels for data, and then you have smaller players like compete or alexa that need as much da

        • Private from whom? We already have fraud laws for identity theft. We already have the free market to regulate the likes of Google or other companies. We have the 4th Amendment. What else did you have in mind?
          • We already have fraud laws for identity theft. We already have the free market to regulate the likes of Google or other companies.

            But you're not Google's customer. How does the "free" market help you?

            We have the 4th Amendment.

            For certain values of "we" that apparently don't include the Chinese. And "unreasonable" is in the eye of the beholder. Besides, what makes you think it protects you, anyhow? It's Google's data we're talking about, it doesn't belong to you (in the USA, anyhow).

  • Proxy is overkill (Score:5, Informative)

    by sakdoctor ( 1087155 ) on Tuesday January 19, 2010 @08:18PM (#30826752) Homepage

    www.optimizegoogle.com Tick most stuff, especially remove click tracking.

    There, now Google knows what I search for, but never which link I clicked.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Petrushka ( 815171 )

      Thanks for that. I'd been using CustomizeGoogle since forever, and had missed the fact that it had been superceded by a newer extension (one that actually works). I have now updated.

      On another note, I tried clicking on TFA (yes, I know) and got an interesting response that I hadn't seen before:

      Page unavailable
      Access Denied
      Your request was denied because of its content categorization: "Proxy Avoidance"

      Well, it's my workplace's internet connection, so I guess they can do what they like. No indication of which service they're using to identify "evil" sites like this, though.

  • Nearly every Google product competes with at least two other brands for the same thing. If you don't like Google, you can use something else.
    • Even so, what Google (usually) offers is a superior experience, and that experience comes at a cost. And by maintaining your privacy, you are indirectly limiting your own experience in the process. The more people try to influence Google, the less effective it would be.

      • by b4k3d b34nz ( 900066 ) on Tuesday January 19, 2010 @08:49PM (#30827000)
        Not really...Google just offers you a unified experience. Bing has better Travel and Maps search. Yahoo has a generally better mail UI/client, as well as a huge database of Q&A. Ask has better contextual search and a butler. 30 Boxes is a better calendar Flickr is far better than Picasa, and has a better community Zimbra is just plain better than pretty much anything that Google Docs has to offer (which isn't much) Wordpress is more advanced, feature-rich, and easier to use than Blogger Netvibes is a lot less buggy than Google Reader, and provides a better interface (Please note, these are the general consumer products. Many of the business services and tools are far better than the competition) But, most people are lazy and would rather just go to google.com.
        • What about an alternative to http://www.google.com/images [google.com]?

          Because let's be honest, a lot of searches that people want to keep private are taking place there.

        • Bing has better Travel and Maps search.

          I didn't realise there was a Bing Maps. I just had a look at it. I typed my street name and town (in the UK) into bing and it could't find it, even when it was already looking at the right town. I did the same in google maps (whilst looking at the default view of america) and it found it straight away. However...

          Flickr is far better than Picasa, and has a better community


          Wordpress is more advanced, feature-rich, and easier to use than Blogger


          Couldn't say about the rest of them.

        • Bing has better Travel and Maps search.

          OK, possibly.

          Yahoo has a generally better mail UI/client,

          Not really. Google lets me use my own domain with gmail.

          as well as a huge database of Q&A.

          What? Are you talking about Yahoo Answers, that game where somebody posts a fake question and people compete to see who can come up with the funniest fake answer? Could be useful if you want to find out "how is babby formed," I guess.

          Ask has better contextual search and a butler.

          OK, now I know you're just fucking with

    • by vux984 ( 928602 )

      Nearly every Google product competes with at least two other brands for the same thing. If you don't like Google, you can use something else.

      If a site integrates a google search, I cannot easily search the site without using google.
      If a site integrates a youtube video, I cannot easily watch that video withou using google.
      If a site uses google analytics, I would have to actively block it to avoid being tracked by google.
      If a site displays google ads, I would have to actively block it to avoid being tracked b

  • Nice tradeoff. Now HE can track you on his proxy. He can sell the information too (in aggregated form if he's scrupulous).

    • The information might be more valuable, on a per-amount-of-data basis. The data will have a greater bias towards those who think they have something worth hiding. Then again, any sensible person (or proper tinfoil-hat wearing freak) who thinks they have something worth hiding won't be knowingly using a proxy run by anyone else, so maybe the bias won't be that strong.
  • Why (Score:5, Insightful)

    by cosm ( 1072588 ) <thecosm3@@@gmail...com> on Tuesday January 19, 2010 @08:35PM (#30826896)
    Is it me, or has Google started to slide in the media towards away from its 'Don't Be Evil' policy? Personally, I think they operate well within moral bounds, but to a lot of major networks, blogs, and news aggregates, the opposite seems to be opines.

    In principle, most want their usage statistics retained for a short-while, if at all. Most prefer their statistics only confided with first channel of contact as well. Are people considering that these mass usage statistics may comprise some of the magic that makes their platform so successful and useful? Continual refinement due to constant sources of usage information, IMO, seems to be working great for them. The naysayers neigh, but until I see a genuine effort by other companies to be as philanthropic, open-source friendly, charitable, and hospitable, I will shelve my skepticism and contempt for their nosiness in hopes of a continually great service.

    How much would people complain if search became a pay-per-search model? If all those in favor of eliminating usage-statistics completely had their way, Ad-Words and dynamic advertising content would be out, and these search giants would be looking for another form of revenue. Something to think about...
    • Re:Why (Score:4, Interesting)

      by kestasjk ( 933987 ) * on Tuesday January 19, 2010 @08:53PM (#30827048) Homepage
      I'm not a big Google-privacy-paranoia guy, but my faith in them had been on the decline, and their recent China thing has definitely bought them some credibility in my eyes. It's easy to have a knee-jerk cynical reaction to it, but it may well show that they really are still putting principles before profits, and that their "Don't Be Evil" motto is more than a quirky relic of their early days.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by lidocaineus ( 661282 )

      You're deluding yourself if you think "Don't Be Evil" is more than just a throwaway phrase. While it can be argued that Google started out altruistic, it's a corporation, and by nature all corporations are there for one thing - to make money. Don't Be Evil is just some vague guide they put out there that basically means "we'll try to not do things that would piss off the consumer but it's in no way a priority."

      That said, I use google all the time. I just understand how much to trust them (read: not very

      • Yeah, nice job moderating me as 'flamebait' for distrusting a corporation.

        That's proof right there that google has somehow gotten people to follow it with some kind of reverent attitude.

    • by ugen ( 93902 )

      Ad-words have nothing to do with data retention. They show you ads based on the current keywords you enter. While there is some targeting, Adwords and similar services would work just fine without it.
      So there is no need to keep any information about anyone's online habits, searches etc. in order to present relevant ads and make money. This is purely a strawman argument.

      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        Ad-words has everything to do with data retention. There is probably a limit past which more data will just give them too much of a needle in a haystack to sort through (I'd peg it at about 2 years.) However, if you think knowing search history doesn't help them improve results, you're not understanding what Google does properly.

        It's not just a question of targeting. A straightforward example (though it only needs continuity over a half hour or so) is following you as you refine your search. If Google sees

  • by LostCluster ( 625375 ) * on Tuesday January 19, 2010 @08:35PM (#30826898)
    Google runs an ad network because it makes money. They still honor their "Don't be evil" promises, but they've got to do some user tracking because that makes ads more valuable. If you took advertising away from Google... how would they make money? Would anybody pay Google to not show ads to them?
    • I would actually, especially considering how little they must make per person via ads it surely wouldn't cost much
      • Reading your post again I can see that it was a rhetorical question, and I agree that in general people won't pay for Google services (just that I would like the option to), so yes I agree with your point.
    • Would anybody pay Google to not show ads to them?

      Perhaps, yes. I would, though I don't know if the amount I'd be wiling to pay woudl be enough to make it worth anyones while running such a scheme - Google's ads are not at all irritating compared to other options so I really don't mind them enough to be bothered enough to pay more than, say, a few per year. Some might pay for "not being tracked", but that isn't going to work because if you are not tracked how will they track whether or not they should track you...

      Even if there are a minority wiling to pay

      • > ...you are Google's product which they sell to their customers.

        And said customers are getting swindled when they buy me.

        • > > ...you are Google's product which they sell to their customers.

          > And said customers are getting swindled when they buy me.

          No, they are aware that they are buying the potential for XYZ,000 people to see their ad with an expected A% blocking it and B% just not noticing and C% ignoring it. You are not swindling them, you are part of the expected response pattern.

          But advertisers would consider Google to be swindling them (or, at least they would expect to pay less) if they added a further D% (those

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday January 19, 2010 @08:55PM (#30827060)

    Download, install, properly configure Tor:
    https://www.torproject.org/ [torproject.org]

    Certainly you should choose an open source and free operating system to
    increase your security/privacy: http://www.distrowatch.com/ [distrowatch.com]

    Use one of the many tools available to build your own Linux liveCD/DVD/USB
    with Tor installed/configured and yank out all of your HDDs or unplug them
    while using Tor via Linux liveCD/DVD/USB, then while running Tor:

    Scroogle SSL:
    https://ssl.scroogle.org/ [scroogle.org]

    and for mail:

    No cookies, no script, no java, no flash required!
    https://www.safe-mail.net/ [safe-mail.net]

    In the words of Woody Woodpecker:
    Hah ha ha HAH ha, Hah ha ha HAH ha, HAHAHAHHAHAHHAAH!

    Fuck you corporations, fuck you snoopers, I do it MY WAY.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by BitZtream ( 692029 )

      Or, you could save yourself a shitload of time and just realize that ...


      Seriously, give it a try, trust me, no one gives a shit about you so all the crap you suggest someone setup is just a waste of time.

    • and for mail:

      No cookies, no script, no java, no flash required!
      https://www.safe-mail.net/ [safe-mail.net]

      Thanks for the link... but you do need JavaScript enabled to use Safe-Mail.

    • Or more simply, use OperaTor (Opera+Tor):

      http://archetwist.com/en/opera/operator [archetwist.com]

  • ...not having a Google account, disabling scripts, and blocking all Google cookies including Analytics doesn't do except give Mr. Moxie a chance to track me? Why should I trust him more than Google? I know what Google is after. What does he want?

  • So yo dont trust Google, the company just told China where it gets off. Then you will trust this unknown anonymizer plug in. Great, would you like to help me cash the 9 million dollars I have stolen from the Nigerian Oil Company?
  • Google offers you a choice. If one doesn't want to participate then fine, don't use Google. If one uses Google and expects them to keep their part of the bargain then they should hold up their end. Anything less is like saying: I like the yummy goodness of candy bars, but I don't like paying for them, but I am clever so I use stealth to eat them without paying for them. That "clever stealth" is, by any other name, still stealing.
    • by bnenning ( 58349 )

      And going to the bathroom during commercials is stealing too, right? You may have a promising legal career at Time Warner.

  • He stole my idea! (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Demonoid-Penguin ( 1669014 ) on Wednesday January 20, 2010 @12:02AM (#30828188) Homepage
    I offer the same service - and more. I'll route your google/msn/yahoo/windows live/banking/ebay through tor for you. You can inspect the code for my tor client and proxy (Open Source of course). Hell I'll even offer SSL and HTTPS - both ways. Opt out on the banking data too!
  • This sounds like a man in the middle attack to me.
  • I often find the choice of ads that Gmail comes up with more interesting than the actual email. It's sometimes a bit disconcerting how relevant they are (how did they know I'm a Barry Manilow Fan?!?) but if I want to be truly anonymous (which is pretty rare) I know not to use any of their services. One thing I've noticed is if you get a "hell hath no fury like a woman scorned" email, that ad column is vacant (presumably nobody wants their company associated with that.) Also, I just checked and a message ab
  • Alternatively you could, like, turn off cookies? At least if you are not on a static IP and/or share said IP with several others.

"Call immediately. Time is running out. We both need to do something monstrous before we die." -- Message from Ralph Steadman to Hunter Thompson