Search engines are the starting point of much of what we do online. Over 44 million people in the UK turn to internet for their news, shopping and desktop research and a recent study reveals that people trust search engines more than mainstream media.
With any form of online browsing, it is more than likely a user’s data has been tracked in some way. In many cases, search engines know more about us than our friends or family! While it can be argued that tracking has benefits, especially as it makes returning to any place easier via search history without having to scour through numerous searches or seeing the same content twice.
There is a general perception in the UK that the average internet user isn’t too concerned with how their data is being collected. Traditionally users tolerate targeted banner ads, pop ups and are comfortable with what is seen as ‘conveniently inconvenient’.
In the wake of the high profile bank and retailer hacks, there is a small section of the business and consumers that are concerned about their digital footprint and what data companies hold on them. However, while many have opted to browse ‘incognito’ to combat this, what most aren’t aware is that this function doesn’t stop online activity being tracked, traced and stored by the provider. For instance Google still tracks. Not only that, Google can go a step further and display the search results they anticipate a user will want determined by the profile amassed from harvested search data.
But the question is: how fair is it that the search engines we use are building a detailed profile of users, tracking and recording behaviour?
Moreover, is it fair that search engine results are not objective… that they are based upon past expressions of interest to gather information and personalise results based upon what’s been looked for in past searches?
Internet users are constantly tracked by their clicking habits, brand preferences and even the number of visits to a particular site; all then used to input these behaviours into a pot of complex algorithms to build a digital profile which is then sold to companies to market products and services.
All users should be aware how their data is being used, whether for personal or business use. Most people have nothing to hide, but that doesn’t mean they want companies to know everything about them before they search online. Likewise many business’ are investing in firewalls, antivirus software and VPNs but are leaving a huge amount of meta data behind in their footprint.
So now the question becomes, does one have to abandon the use of a search engine in order to level the playing field? Simple answer is no. A simple solution is to stop the provider’s ability to track and trace searches by leaving no data behind to be captured, therefore providing no grounds to form a digital profile. How? By using a service that doesn’t look at private data such as cookies, IP address or search history to identify a user when they visit the site or when they return.
This is why we created a search engine that gives users the control of their data back. Oscobo's provides truly discreet anonymous search capabilities respecting a user’s rights to privacy. For instance, in fields such as legal and medical where anonymity is essential, corporate users could perform any search without their IP be tracked or their search history being noted.
By Rob Perin, co-founder of Oscobo