Is this necessary?

Should we all be using this GoogleAnon bookmarklet to set our Google GUID to all zeros, in order to anonymize our searches? Is that a paranoid thing to do?

Does it even work? Is this sufficient to keep users’ searches anonymous?

On the other side, should we all be using the Search History feature on Google, which is now part of the Personalized Search page? You get cool new toys and usability improvements in return for potentially giving up some privacy… is the trade-off worth it? Personally, I think would be better to have the option to store your “search history” on your computer instead, but as I found when I was forced to wipe my hard drive and reinstall recently, it’s frequently more convenient to have your personal stuff stored on a remote server.

That’s why I use del.icio.us… it now has a “private” tagging option, which means that I can even save links which I don’t want the general public to know I’m interested in visiting. However, the government or whoever is running del.ico.us could presumably discover what I have saved “privately” on their servers, so it’s not useful for anything more sensitive than porn links.

So, to recap…
(1)Is anonymizing necessary?
(2)Are the features you can get by giving away some privacy worth the tradeoff?
(3)Can we get the same features while retaining our privacy?
(4)Does anonymizing even work?

3 thoughts on “Is this necessary?

  1. I really can’t say much, but…I personally trust Google with my search history, but I also live an open life and don’t give a shit about anonymity I would certainly agree that the paranoid thing to do is to both zero out your cookie, and use anonymizing software to mask your IP address. It seems pretty obvious that either IP address or cookie lets someone accumulate information about you. If you don’t want that, then deal with it.

    I don’t know the details of personalized search, so I have no idea what it takes to get better searches while staying anonymous.

  2. Another thing that this cookie interferes with, I’ve noticed, is the gmail login. I have a couple of gmail accounts, and ever since resetting my GUID, I am prompted to login again with a warped text image to validate that my login wasn’t automated. I assume this has something to do with the high volume of users using that GUID who are also constantly logging into gmail.
    I think I’ll reset it to something random every once and a while.

  3. Simple Solution

    Set firefox to eat cookies when the browser closes 😉 Google still knows where they’re sending search results by IP, regardless of whether or not you interfere with their cookies, so using Tor is another potential solution.

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