Is Anything Private?

A few months ago, a friend and I were working on our taxes, and we had to look something up on the Internet. I searched for it on my browser, and my friend noticed that something was odd. This didn’t look like your ubiquitous Google results page. Somewhat reproachfully, he asked if I was …gasp… using a different search engine. Surely as a PhD student in a department that specializes in delivering information to users, I should know that Google is peerless in its ability to dig up the most appropriate information. So, why was I using something different? I told him that I was worried about my privacy and the amount of data that Google had been collecting about its users. I had switched to duckduckgo, which follows a strict no-tracking policy. “But, you don’t do anything illegal. Why do you need to hide?” was his retort. “Why does it bother you if they collect data about you?”

Well, let me give you three examples of data collection that keep me awake at night:

Continue reading