Evil Google

In October 2006, President George Bush drew ridicule from left-leaning bloggers for attaching an article to the name of the most popular search engine:

One of the things I’ve used on the Google is to pull up maps. It’s very interesting to see — I’ve forgot the name of the program — but you get the satellite, and you can — like, I kinda like to look at the ranch. It reminds me of where I wanna be sometimes.

While President Bush has demonstrated a general lack of concern about the privacy rights of individuals, but he might be concerned if he realized that The Google was logging his search terms and his movements around the InterWeb for the purpose of determining which of its advertisers might have a product of interest to the POTUS. And the Google product the prez likes to check out the ranch with — Google Maps — has just released a version that enables street-level images in which individuals can be identified, which has personal-privacy advocates crying foul.

President Bush might be concerned if he realized that The Google was logging his search terms and his movements on the Web.

The issue of privacy has led Ask.com, a relative late-comer to the search biz and the smallest of the leading engines, to offer a tool that supposedly allows a user to opt out of any tracking the engine might do. So far, Ask.com is the only engine to offer such an opt-out.

But the question of privacy and whether Google respects it is worth asking, especially as more Web users rely solely or primarily on Google for searches. A recent report by Web metrics company Hitwise revealed just how dominant the Google has become:

Google’s share of the market rose to 65.1 percent from 61.84 percent in the same month [November] a year ago, Hitwise said. In October, Google had a 64.49 percent share.

Yahoo Search was a distant second last month with 21.21 percent of searches, followed by Microsoft’s MSN Search, 7.09 percent; and Ask.com, 4.63 percent. The remaining 46 search engines in the Hitwise rankings accounted for 1.96 percent of searches.

But there is an easy way to still use Google but prevent it from tracking your movements and inferred preferences. Use the meta-search engine Zuula. Zuula simultaneously searches Google, Yahoo, MSN and a couple of other engines and returns results in an ad-free page that is tabbed for each engine. It also enables news, image, blog and jobs searches from its simple interface.

If you compare a search on Google with a search on Google using Zuula, the results will differ, mainly because they haven’t been skewed to sell you stuff based on where you’ve been on the Web.

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