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Hal Licino

How to Limit Google’s Access to Your Personal Data

Mar 14 2012, 05:23 PM by

Last week, we discussed the pros and cons of Google’s new one size fits all privacy policy. But if you’re one of the many internet users creeped out by the prospect of having your every keystroke cyber stalked, you may want to consider these escalating steps to protect your identity online.
1. Disable Your Web History
Sign in to your Google account, then go to https://www.google.com/history and click Remove All Web History. Then click OK and you’re done. However, you’re not done too much.

Once you have disabled your Web History, Google will continue to gather and store all your information and make it available to law enforcement agencies. The only real difference is that if you have your Web History set to on, your data will reside in the Googleplex for all eternity, but with it off it will be partially anonymized 18 months after collection.
2. Stop Googling Yourself
Admit it, you’ve Googled yourself over and over again. Pretty well everyone has, and that is a key identifier when examining a search history. Even if you don’t know the identity of a searcher, once you note that they have repeatedly searched for the same name, address and social security number, it doesn’t take a forensic data examination to figure out who that history belongs to. Abstaining from Googling yourself will further anonymize you in searches.
3. Keep Rotating Your IP Address
Very few ISPs provide a static IP address, preferring instead to allocate constantly changing, dynamic IP addresses, which are much harder to track. To ensure that your IP address keeps changing, make a habit of turning off your broadband modem with your computer at night, which in many cases resets it. (Note: This is a good tip for basic data privacy, but if the FBI is after you they can tie any static or dynamic IP right to your front door.)
4. Adopt Heavy Duty Anonymizing Access
Tor is the heavy duty option among all anonymizing tools. It takes all of your web surfing and channels it through virtual tunnels that are very difficult to track if not outright impossible. As in everything else in life there are tradeoffs: Tor’s not the easiest software to configure; it only protects apps that are configured to function through it; and many users report that the performance hit is severe. The most critical factor however is security on your end, as Tor opens up your PC to a variety of hacker attacks, including page misdirection and Java applets masquerading as trusted domains.
5. Bid Adieu to Google
Google is the internet's 800-lb gorilla, but there are alternatives to its services. The biggest single problem facing Google-avoiders is the unfortunate fact that most other search engines, including Bing, are woefully inadequate. Unless you’re an avid power-searcher you might be able to use Gibiru or DuckDuckGo, taking advantage of those sites’ policies of encrypting your IP address, maintaining your anonymity. Your Gmail can be substituted by the fully-free non-giant corporation alternatives such as Zoho, Hushmail, Excite or Vmail.me. Your Google Docs can be left behind in favor of any competent conventional suite software such as OpenOffice; and your social networking... well... have you considered dedicating the time you’re now spending on Google+ or Facebook to more advantageous ends, like doing charity work, spending time with your family (remember them?) or sleeping?
6. Go Privacy Crazy
You can go much further to protect your privacy but it really comes down to the point of diminishing returns. You could find a volume discount sale on netbook computers and buy 100 in order to rotate their use in range of 100 businesses with open WiFi. This would give you a level of security far beyond your typical LulzSec operative, but it doesn’t score highly on the practicability index.

Short of moving to a deserted island without electricity, it is almost impossible to live your life online without leaving some tracks behind. The determination of how much trouble you want to go through to do so is up to you.

Posted in Tips & Resources

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