Category Archives: Privacy

Google Apps & Privacy

I use Google Apps for many websites. One of the reasons is that for just $10 a year, I can register the domain with privacy protection and also get a nice email application. Recently I have chosen not to renew one of the websites. So, the domain expired. Then, to my dismay I found my information when I searched for the expired domain in one of the whois directories.

What’s not clear to me is, if this is a standard practice where the privacy information is no longer protected once the domain is expired or if it is something specific to the terms & conditions between Google and eNom. Whatever be the case, I think it is inappropriate to not protect the privacy just because the domain has expired.

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Filed under Google Apps, Privacy

Is LinkedIn Mistakenly Passing Off Your Search Information?

I have a website and I have it in my LinkedIn profile. Recently I have noticed a few visits from LinkedIn to my website. But the strange thing is, the referer URL contained in one case the name of a person I know and in another case, the name of a person I don’t know. It’s not clear to me, whether the name in the URL is the name of the person searching for other people and visiting to their website, or the name of a profile from whom a person visited my profile and then to my website. Whatever it is, it made me concerned about it a bit.

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Filed under linkedin, Privacy

Consumer Privacy, Corporate Secrecy, Both Are Threatened By Google Chrome

There has been a lot of buzz about Google Chrome. I know this not just from the blogs and press but also from my own post about Google Chrome and applets which brought in more than 300 visits in just a day and from Google Grabs 1% on day one, some real statistics.

There has been concerns on the consumer privacy because the OmniBar of Chrome supposedly gathers and sends what you type in the url bar to Google. This is a serious privacy issue for me that I wouldn’t be using Chrome anytime soon.

In this age of online collaboration, more and more companies use CMS websites within their corporate infrastructure. So, when an employee using Chrome and types in the url of an intranet website url, that information would also be available to Google. Now imagine Apple had such a CMS and it had folders named iPod and iPhone long before these products were released to the public! While the press always finds ways to get this kind of information early on through employees/partners who anonymously leak this type of information, with Chrome, Google has a visibility to upcoming high-profile projects that are not known to anyone else. This is a real threat to corporations!

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Filed under Chrome, Privacy

Online Search Privacy

Recently AOL leaked a 3 months worth of searches conducted by their users, supposedly by mistake. Even though the usernames are not given out in the logs, there is a lot of criticism based on this article about how it became possible to derive the identify of a person based on the searches she conducted.

In case of AOL, the searches are tied back to the individual user based on the AOL account. Since Google doesn’t have subscription like AOL, is it safe to assume your privacy is safe with Google? Not so if you are using Gmail as well. Why? Because, when you login to Gmail and keep it open all the time like I do, then, everytime you do a search, Google would know that it’s you (with a particular gmail email address), that’s doing the search! And that’s scary. Isn’t it?

All the people keep complaining about this privacy issue. One way this could be resolved is, if you can have two separate instances of Firefox each running as a separte process and one not knowing about the cookies of the other. Perhaps due to various technical reasons this is not possible, but where there is a will, there is a way. Isn’t it?

On the otherhand, even if that was possible, would you want to keep switching between two separate browsers? That’s the whole reason why we all love the Firefox’s tabbed browsing functionality in the first place.

So, what can be done to be able to browse in a single browser and yet protect your privacy against Google? Or for that matter any other company that can track your usage of their free service based on your logging into another of their service?

I think, I found a solution. It’s basically the IE Tab plugin I talked about in my previous blog. Here is what you can do.

1. Get Firefox if you already don’t have one and install it.
2. Then download the “IE Tab” plugin mentioned above and install it, restart the browser.
3. Now, go to https://gmail.google.com/ and switch it to IE by clicking the “IE Tab”s icon at the bottom on the status bar.
4. Login to Gmail.
5. Now, open another tab and happly keep searching the web, and Google wouldn’t get your cookie of their gmail to track you.

How do you know if it’s working? You will notice that while in the past, when you visited Google’s homepage to search, you would see “Logout” link, now you will start seeing “Sign In” link. Google no longer knows that you logged in as IE’s cookie base is different from Firefox’s.

Of course, they can still use the IP address of your machine to try to corelate. But it’s a little less accurate than relating your searches to precisely you!

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Filed under Gmail, Google Search, Privacy, Tech - Tips