When you search for something in your favorite search engine, the search engine logs what you are searching for. Over a period of time, that search engine builds your search data profile and uses it to manipulate you search results or display advertisements. This search data profiling is done by all the major search engines like Google, Bing, Yahoo! and Baidu (China). Fortunately, there is an add-on called TrackMeNot for Firefox using which you can send randomly generated search queries the search engines so that the search data profile it builds is not accurate and thus protect your privacy. Here is how you can install and use the TrackMeNot add-on in Firefox :
- Visit https://addons.mozilla.org/en-US/firefox/addon/trackmenot/ in your Firefox browser.
- Click on the green colored button labeled Add to Firefox.
- Click on the Install Now button in the Software Installation window that pops up. You will have to restart the Firefox browser in order to activate this add-on.
- After restarting the Firefox browser, you can start using your browser like normal and search on any search engines like you usually do. The TrackMeNot add-on works in the background, receiving search terms from the RSS feeds of sites like New York Times and querying search engines automatically many times (10 times per hour by default). This obfuscates your search data profile and does not build a real practical profile of your searching behavior.
- In the TrackMeNot add-on options, you can choose which search engines to bombard with random queries, how many times the search queries are to be performed per hour etc. You can also set a custom RSS feed for the search queries to be populated from.
- Now Google is smart enough to notice automated searches from the same IP address, so you may see a captcha box on the Google search webpage. To resolve the problem, just reduce the number of searches being made per hour in the TrackMeNot options.
If you are a Google Chrome browser user, do not worry – the TrackMeNot add-on is also available for the Chrome web browser. It is a great and free tool to help you avoid being profiled by major search engines and this helps protecting your online privacy.