October 7, 2013
Privacy and security software firm Disconnect is kicking it up a notch to help Internet users maintain their privacy.
The company has launched Disconnect Search, “a web proxy that allows you to search privately using your favorite search engine.”
The extension for Chrome and Firefox allows users to privately search on Google, Bing and Yahoo as well as other popular search engines.
According to the company, Disconnect Search enables its users to prevent data logging and invisible tracking by search engines, marketers and other companies.
“There’s not many things more personal than what you search for online. But your typical searches are anything but private,” reads the company website.
“Most of the popular search engines save your search queries and connect them to your real name, your email address, or your IP address. These companies keep this information for months, sometimes years. In addition, when you click a search result link, the website usually receives the search terms you used, which can then be saved by that website as well. Finally, your ISP may be able to access your search queries and connect them to your account.”
Here’s how it works:
• Disconnect routes its users’ search queries through its proxy servers before accessing a search engine. This means all searches appear to be coming from Disconnect rather than from users’ computers.
• The firm also thwarts search engines’ efforts to send search queries to the websites people visit via search results pages.
• Disconnect also encrypts its users’ search queries, keeping their Internet Service Provider (ISP) from viewing their searches.
Those who install Disconnect Search can use it by searching from the search box in the extension interface, searching privately from the browser’s Omnibox by enabling ‘Search from the omnibox’ or by turning on the ‘Search from everywhere’ feature in the extension interface.
Disconnect said searches may be slightly different in some cases. For instance, searches for local businesses will need to be more specific because the search engine will no longer know the user’s location, making geographically-targeted results impossible. Ads may also be less relevant to users because the search engines will not be able to target them based on past browsing preferences.
While users of Disconnect Search can significantly reduce their digital footprints, the company said it cannot promise the U.S. government will not be able to access a person’s browsing history if it so chooses.
While it will be more difficult for search engines and companies to provide information on Internet users to the government and more difficult for the government to obtain an individual’s search queries from his or her ISP, it is not impossible.
“We do not log or otherwise save your search queries. This makes it impossible for us to share your Disconnect Search queries with the US government without a valid court order that requires us to change our technology,” the company said, adding that “the U.S. government may force us to begin logging the search queries of a particular user or group of users. If served with a court order that includes a non-disclosure provision, we may not be able to tell our users about this change for some period of time, possibly forever. And the U.S. Government may also have other methods of monitoring your searches which Disconnect Search cannot prevent.”
To download Disconnect Search, click here.
Jennifer Cowan is the Managing Editor for SiteProNews.