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Go 'incognito' to avoid Google's tracking efforts
Having grown up in a very small town where everybody knew everyone else’s business, I have come to appreciate the anonymity of big (or rather, bigger) city life, and Google is threatening that anonymity for many of us.
Granted, my current residence is not New York City, but I come from a town that counted the people twice and the cows and tractors once in an effort to keep the post office. As a result, I’ve learned to appreciate the ability to go out to dinner with someone and not hear it on the prayer list Sunday morning.
The policy change affects those of us who use the Google search engine, photo edit in Picasa, watch videos on YouTube, have an Android phone, or use any other service offered by Google. Before March 1, all of these various companies kept track of your information separately, meaning they did not communicate across services.
For example, before March 1, if I searched on the Google search engine for Easter dresses, my Google email account, Gmail, would have had no record of that search. Now, Google can use that information to suggest videos to me in YouTube or show me advertisements for Easter dresses in my Gmail account. The information Google is able to collect is the same. They have always tracked this information, but now they can apply it across all of their businesses to personalize and target your Internet experience.
The simplest thing to do is not to have a Google account. Of course, if I closed my Google account, I would also be closing my Gmail account as well as my Picasa account. However, if I conduct my searches on the Google web browser without signing in to my Gmail account, Google cannot track my searches.
If you would like to see what information is associated with your Google account, visit www.google.com/dashboard and log in with your Google account. The dashboard will show you all of the information associated with your username and password.
Next, we can turn off Google’s web history. The web history is simply a history of everywhere you have been and everything you have looked at on the web using a Google product (YouTube, Google+, etc.). If you would like to turn this feature off, visit https://www.google.com/history and left-click No Thanks.
Another way to make sure your browser (Internet Explorer or Mozilla Firefox) is not taking note of your comings and goings is to go into stealth mode. If you use Internet Explorer 9, press the Ctrl key +Shift key + P key to go into private search mode. This allows you to search the web without a web history being recorded.
If you are using Firefox, the same key combination will work. However, you must press this key combination before you start browsing. Otherwise you will need to manually remove your browsing history.
The only sure way to prevent Google from tracking your browsing habits is to close the account, but most of us are not ready to do that just yet. The folks back home may annoy me, but I still like to visit every once in a while.