Firefox private browsing

Firefox has added new privacy protection, anti-tracking tools.

Firefox keeps your browsing truly private with new Tracking Protection feature, PCWorld (Nov 3)

The new feature is an enhancement to Firefox’s Private Browsing mode, which deleted users’ browsing history and cookies after they closed a private window. Tracking Protection adds an extra layer of privacy to that by blocking code embedded in websites that tracks the way people behave around the Web. That means it will block a lot of ads, along with analytics tools and some social sharing buttons in order to help users keep their browsing habits more closely under wraps.

Guarding against personal photo theft

We know we must take precautions to protect ourselves from identity theft. This new online handbook – Stop Internet Image Theft –   warns us about personal photo theft.

Personal photo theft and online distribution is a growing problem. The rise in social media often means more of your photos are readily accessible and there is unfortunately a growing trend of distributing private images of former partners as a means of revenge.


This kind of incident can have a real impact on the lives of the individual affected and their family so it is vital we not only raise awareness of the issue but also provide guidance on resolving and preventing this.


In our guide, found here –, we cover the practical steps any victim (or family member helping a victim) can take.

The guide was prepared by Who Is Hosting This, a service that can help determine who is hosting the offending content (photos, videos etc).

Google voice search recordings

Google stores your voice searches on its servers – claims this helps Google’s work in voice recognition. If you’d like to see what has been saved so far, delete any of your voice searches, or stop the recording entirely, watch this how-to video from CNet on how to change the settings in your Google account – Stop Google from tracking your voice: How To Video



More push for “right to be forgotten”

Russia and China are introducing “right to be forgotten” legislation by which indviduals can ask for information involving them to be removed. It could become a quagmire and has signiticant implications for historical record.

The Right to Be Forgotten Becomes a Critical Issue for the Internet’s Future by Nancy K. Herther, Newbreaks (Aug 4)

Daphne Keller (a former Google employee) writes in a blog post for The Center for Internet and Society at Stanford Law School that the ruling represents an ill wind for hosting services such as “the Twitters, Facebooks and YouTubes of the world—not to mention European hosting services like DailyMotion, local political discussion forums, and blogs or newspapers with user comment sections. And it matters to Internet users, because the way the ‘Right To Be Forgotten’ plays out for these services will have a very real effect on our ability to speak freely and find information online.”

Privacy Check Tool

Here’s a quick check to do before clicking on “I agree”  to those long, dense user agreements. This tool converts the legalize  to understandable English.

PrivacyCheck Offers Free Tool to Analyze Privacy Policies, University of Texas (May 5)

The Center for Identity, a research organization at The University of Texas at Austin, today released PrivacyCheck, a free browser extension that scans privacy policies online and illustrates the risk of sharing personal data with any given company. Currently available for Chrome users, PrivacyCheck gives users a simple, fast way to make informed decisions about privacy.

Private Search

Blur Private Search is a new search service for making your web searches private. It operates as a plug-in to your browser (home page says Chrome, Firefox, Safari, Opera, or Internet Explorer), and can be toggled on and off. Requires registration and login to use. See Blur Private Search: How It Works

ReadWrite described the benefits and operation of  Private Search  in this article How To Blur Your Search Tracks On Google (Apr 17)

Private Search provides a new made-up identity for each individual search. It then funnels the request through an SSL tunnel, so that the search is encrypted—even Abine can’t see what you’re searching for. And every phrase or topic you search appears as if it is unconnected to previous searches, since each query is sent through Abine’s server with an entirely different IP address (which is yet another avenue by which websites can track people).

Getting past barriers

Hola – a great Chrome or Firefox browser extension for accessing  web sites that would otherwise be blocked based on your IP number. A WebSearchGuide reader sent me this tip. Hola makes it possible to access from outside the United States and view anonymously (ie privately) the search results complete with in-depth articles – a feature still not rolled out to the rest of the world. Canadians will also appreciate that it  makes it possible to receive music played from US-based services.

From the FAQ:

Hola’s goal is to make the Internet faster and fully accessible to everyone. Install Hola on your PC, phone or tablet to make your Internet faster, more open and more anonymous. Hola lets you have unlimited access to information that is otherwise not available in your geography while protecting your online privacy. It also lets you stream videos faster than ever before. Hola is a collaborative Internet — it works by sharing the idle resources of its users for the benefit of all.

Worth taking some time to try out.

How private are health queries?

Very alarming report on how much data is “vacuumed” up about us from our searches. This article summarizes research by Tim Libert, a researcher at the University of Pennsylvania, on what happens with health queries.

Looking up Symptoms Online? These Companies are Tracking You, by Brian Merchant, Motherboard (Feb 23)

Here’s what’s happening in a bit greater detail: Let’s say you make a search for “herpes.” Plugging that query into a search engine will return a list of results. Chances are, whatever site you choose to click on next will send information not just to the server of the intended site—say, the Centers for Disease Control, which maintains the top search result from Google—but to companies that own the elements installed on the page

Enough to get us to change to a privacy-minded search engine such as DuckDuckGo.

Getting away from ads

Google tools are easy to use and very effective, but collect a lot of information about us. How much should we reveal about ourselves? This article has alternatives: DuckDuckGo for search, Firefox rather than Chrome for browsing, Zoho docs instead of Google docs, and Fastmail instead of Gmail – if you have to use a webmail service.

How to ditch Google for more privacy and fewer ads, Derek Walter, PCWorld (Sept 9)

If you’ve decided that keeping all your eggs in one online basket is unwise, there are viable alternatives. Some are arguably not as full-featured as what Google has. But using your email without ads or knowing that performing a web search won’t result in a ton of related advertisements may be enough to encourage you to go on a Google-free diet.

Google starts to remove results

The European Union court decision to require Google to remove results about people requesting “to be forgotten” has resulted in a near deluge of requests – 50,000 of them. Google has begun reviewing them and removing those that are “objectionable” according to the ruling.

Google’s ‘right to be forgotten’ takedowns a ‘challenge to press freedom’
, Juergen Baetz, AP via Globe and Mail (Jul 3)

At least three British media, including the Guardian newspaper and public broadcaster BBC, said they have been notified by Google that links to some of their articles were removed from search results in Europe.