Anonymous online browsing: Utopia or Reality?

With the creation of the internet began a new age. An age of massive data exposure and consumption. Unconsciously we have been feeding this hunger for our personal data from massive corporations. Their goal is to monitor consumer´s behavior in order to predict what will we buy. With this information it is possible for them to create more personalized marketing campaigns and take over a larger share of the market getting a better positioning.

New business model

The high demand for personal data from digital users is an expression of the needs of the productive model to achieve higher levels of valorization. Suddenly the last unconquered virgin territory is us. All these personal data enter in a new business model that creates a new product: Predictions of our behavior, or what is the same, certainty about our future and with that knowledge the temptation to change those patterns is too high. All this information is bought and used by those who have a financial interest in knowing what we will do next regarding matters of insurance, commerce, education, real estate.

It is not enough to use small individual actions like reject cookies on some websites, turn off the Wi-Fi when leaving home, or limit access of the location in the devises, or browse incognito. Privacy is a collective matter. This information is not only used to predict patterns of consumption in goods and services. It can be used to predict patterns of behavior in any sphere of social life and this is dangerous because it exposes us to manipulation.

Users are opting for alternative browsers

Today it is almost impossible to navigate the internet without leaving some sort of trail using traditional browsers. Although the problem is more complex than this, more users are opting for alternative browsers whose goal is to guaranty privacy. DuckDuckGo, SearX, and Swisscows are some examples.

 

Searches in the first one grew over 1000 million per month according to Genbeta. This search engine assures their users not to storage any personal data. It´s main appeal is confidentiality. So no terms and conditions to agree to or give away any personal data. Also it does not perform any form of tracking of user´s browsing history or sale it to advertisers.

There are some programs like DuckDuckGo that reassure users with similar levels of privacy and anonymity. Some of them are Swisscows, Startpage, SearX. This last one allows the user to define language and geographic location for their searches.

Less Personalized results

The only difference with Google is that these search engines definitely do not generate a profile on the user and therefore do not offer such personalized search results based on the visited webs or the user’s activities of social networks. Of course this has its advantages and disadvantages. On the one side Google knows its users, knows their interests and shows suggestions that can facilitate searches making the results more accurate. However, when people use this service it they are saying goodbye to part of their privacy. Search engines like DuckDuckGo, Swisscows, Startpage, SearX don´t storage your data or your preferences.

It is very difficult to guarantee 100 % of anonymity with online browsing but in a high percentage there is no geographic location, cookies or browsing history records. Using this services is similar to using Google. In most cases it is possible to do so by installing an extension on the Browser or to download the app on the App Store, for iOS, or Play Store for Android.

 

These Search engines have their own tracker to find different results and they also use the main search engines like Yahoo, Bing or online Platforms like Wikipedia. The main difference is the quality of the results or a differentiation between relevant and less relevant content.

Usually they allow the user to set up some filters like language, country of publication, type of content (web, image, video, music, maps news), date of publication and even offer an abstract of the content on the web page. Some have their own translation tools.

DuckDuckGo for example has a special set of comand to facilitate searches on directly on third services like twitter or amazon such as ¨!twitter¨ or ¨!a¨. This Browser does not record IP address, information related to users but it records the browsing history without any personal identifications that allows them to know who is behind them.

Their goal is to improve results by showing the correct terms when the user types specific search terms incorrectly. Because it does not storage or shares personal data, advertisements are not personalized to the user´s preferences. This Browser is financed through advertisements based exclusively on the searched words, always according to the company. 

Trying to find anonymity

Most people use this types of searchers when they are trying to feel anonymity or to feel more protected. For example, when they feel like there are some searches they must delete such as shopping o medical appointments to avoid data such as name, day of the appointment or purpose is recorded on the internet.

At the same time this searches can be useful when looking for flights, hotels, or other products to get the best prices. If they don´t know the users previous browsing history the showed results are not conditioned upon it.

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