Are you still using Google?

Hi!

If you are still using Google, you may have noticed it: Yesterday (3. 3. 2011) they changed their search-page: When using the search-page clicks get redirected via http://google.com/url?q=<url>, even if you have disabled JavaScript (before there was an onmousedown-event or something like that changing the link before clicking it). Well, you really want Google to know about most pages you are visiting? They do not only track your search-queries, the links you are clicking, they also provide the Google-Analytics-Tool, collecting even more data from many websites. Well, there are alternatives:

1. There is Scroogle, a nice Proxy for Google, I trust them more than Google, because they cannot make much profit with your data.
2. Install your own proxy on your website (disclaimer: I have written it, do not use the example-installation, it is just to have a quick look at it, I will track your visits, install it for yourself!).
3. Addendum: There are the free, libre, distributed search-engines, e.g. YaCy (see also peer-search.net) and Seeks.
4. There is startpage.com, claiming to support privacy, I do not know much about it (found it few minutes ago), opinions? Addendum: A commenter informed me about DuckDuckGo, the page looks nice, and they claim not to track the users, too.
5. Access Google via a Proxy, without JavaScript or Cookies, and use a script to remve the google.com/url-links.
6. Do not use Yahoo, Bing, Exalead, Ask.com, Baidu, Fireball or whatever, they are probably not better than Google.

For Webmasters:
1. Stop using Google-Analytics, although users can block it, it is not very nice (i.e. immoral), to let ingenuous visitors send their surfing-behaviour to Google, there are better alternatives, e.g. Webalizer and CrawlTrack.
2. Stop using Blogger or Blogspot, install WordPress or whatever CMS you like on your own, cheap webspace or your own, expensive webserver.
3. (addendum) Stop using Google AdSense or reCAPTCHA.

Google’s Android and V8 are nice, but the searchengine and Google Analytics: they are really problematic. Care about your privacy and about the privacy of the visitors of your websites!

PS:
I am currently using reCAPTCHA for this blog (as you may see). I am not sure, if this is okay, the privacy policy seems to be nicer than the normal Google-behaviour, but every visitor will send some information to Google, and they do not say, how they handle visitors not commenting, and who wants to trust Google? Okay, I will remove this captcha, I am realizing that it is probably really bad, any opinions?

PPS:
Sorry, I have to apologise, I thought reCAPTCHA would be nice, because it helps scanning books, but… I have replaced it with a math-captcha, I know, bots can break it easily, I will see, what will happen. I hope it will block most bots.

PPPS:
You could at least try this to remove the spying-redirection-links and Adblock to block Google Analytics.

39 Responses to “Are you still using Google?”

  1. montfras Says:

    You should try DuckDuckGo. They don’t track you and it has some neat features. Mostly it finds the information I’m looking for as fast as google.

    http://www.duckduckgo.com
    http://www.duckduckgo.com/about.html

  2. Lex Says:

    I don’t see too many privacy issues here. If Google uses my search patterns to improve their search results, then all the better. If they use it to profit from it, I still don’t mind, since I’m getting a great Search Engine, Mail/Calendar etc… app for free.

  3. The User Says:

    Well, they want to be able to track your whole surfing behaviour, and that is really a lot of information. And they will use it for their advertisement, they will know a lot about you (arguable, if Facebook knows more than Google). And of course I am not using Google Mail etc.: I am using EMail-services provided by my webhostes and my university, and Google calendars, docs? Seriously, it may be handy, but who needs that? Use iCalendar or whatever to store your calendars locally, open standards, free software, no evil, proprietary web-apps controlling your data. Google Docs? Share your .tex or .odt files using Git or ownCloud or whatever, that is really easy enough.

  4. Matija “hook” Šuklje Says:

    Or better yet, use a true Free Software solutions:
    http://www.yacy.info
    http://www.seeks-project.info/site/

    YaCy a distributed/P2P web search engine.
    Seeks is a distrubuted/P2P and more importantly collaboratively handled meta search that can use many engines at the same time, but it is planned to get its own engine in the future as well.

    Currently I use Seeks for pretty much everything and it’s got some pretty inventive solutions. Check http://video.fosdem.org/2011/lightningtalks/seeks.xvid.avi

  5. The User Says:

    @Matija
    Hmm, I think I have already heard about YaCy.

    @Matija?montfras
    I have added the links to the post.

  6. Lex Says:

    I’m sure there are alternatives to everything, but the fact of the matter is, Google does a bloody good job integrating it all.

    We use wikis for collaboration and Git for Tex files at work, rather than Google Docs. That’s an environment where everyone is comfortable with those tools.

    But if I want to come up with a quick event for friends, that’s the easiest way for everyone else to gather data. While studying at Uni, we used Google Docs to share knowledge/information about subjects with 20-30 contributors editing it real-time. For my private business, Google Docs has proven invaluable since it allows me to stay in touch with my partners who live a few hundred km away and allows us to keep track of what all of us have been up to in a way that wikis simply wont.

    I use Google Calendar for pretty much the same reason. Its a fantastic tool to keep your day organised, and Gmail provides an email experience second to none. Also, storing your data on the cloud means its not tethered to one disk. I sync my calendar across Kontact, my phone etc, and its accessible pretty much everywhere I go.

    Really though, the fact of the matter is, I don’t actually *mind* them knowing my surfing behaviour. I’m sure that there are people who do, and valid if they don’t want to use it. I think privacy is an important concern, but I think with an online world, its inevitable that we’re going to lose a bit of it.

    Google as a company though has so far been trustworthy and I haven’t seen them use information for “evil” as such. There hasn’t been a case when a government has forced Google to turn over private information on someone or their searching habits. They use it to provide better advertising, which is actually useful sometimes, and they use it to fund their R&D programmes, to come up with free services and systems such as Android, which have really improved the workflow for a lot of people.

    Would I prefer that Google didn’t use my private information? Sure… I would love that, but we live in a capitalistic world, and its impossible to get something for nothing. So, I willingly allow Google to harvest information on me in return for some services, and at the end of the day, it makes me more productive and I can live with that.

  7. The User Says:

    „ I would love that, but we live in a capitalistic world“
    and that is the reason, why doing a „bloody good job“ does not necessarily make the world better.
    I think you are a KDE-user. Are you interested in Free Software? You are using a free desktop-environment etc., but you are using all those Google-services? We try to spread Free Software, because we think it is better than proprietary software, because the users have certain rights, not because somebody did a better job or because of features. And that is why I am offending such web-applications, they are probably worse than classical proprietary software, they do not allow any control, they do not allow to study, how it works, and they do not even allow controlling your data and using it however you want and forever. Sometimes there are reasons, why proprietary software might be indispensable, I am using fglrx myself, because it implies much less energy consumption than the free Radeon-driver, but I will certainly not use any service/application because it is currently a bit more handy than all the free tools. I am not using Outlook, Visual Studio, MS Office or a iPhone, and I do not even care, how good they are, I wish that one day there will be much more freedom for using programs, the internet, getting information and viewing media, but there are companies offending such a world, which could lead to much better research and development in the world, because it decreases their current profits. Google Docs, Mail and Calendars certainly do not support informational self-determination, and the most-efficient way for helping establishing freedom and information for everyone in that field is boycotting those web-applications and supporting free solutions (e.g. by using them). And of course working together is possible with Git+TeX or ODF and maybe Kobby, although you might miss feature XY, forget that feature or help implementing it in Free Software, instead of helping web-services with getting established, becoming better and eliminating free alternatives.

    Btw: Do you really think, knowledge about all websites you are visiting is irrelevant information?

  8. Lex Says:

    I am indeed a KDE user and read the post through Planet KDE :)

    I absolutely advocate the use of free software, but I am also pragmatic in my approach. I use KDE/Linux on pretty much all my machines, OpenOffice/Tex for documents etc…

    But the reason I use online services is precisely that. They are “services” rather than software.

    I need a decent mail client, and Gmail suits me best. My university uses Microsoft Live, which is no better for me. My ISP’s email is not portable. As for the Calendar, I don’t have access to a server that is connected to the Internet. If there was a free-software based PIM (Email/Calendar) service, I would certainly switch to it, but at present, Google offers the best set of integrated services.

    I use Google Docs as a means of collaboration because there isn’t a free-software alternative which allows me to collaborate in that way with Friends.

  9. The User Says:

    “They are ‘services’ rather than software.”
    Well, you could stop using software and only use services, and now think about it: Would that be better than having only proprietary software? No, it would be worse, the differences are that you are executing most stuff via EcmaScript in your webbrowser and that you do not even have access to binaries or your data. Remember, why Free Software is good, it is good, because people are not working against each other but they are working together at developing the best technologies, and they have got control about their data and their machines.

    What do you mean with “Microsoft Live”? (Wikipedia ? disambiguation ;))
    KMail, Evolution and Thunderbird are bad mail-clients?
    Calendar: Webspace is really cheap, you can even get it for free…
    “I use Google Docs as a means of collaboration because there isn’t a free-software alternative which allows me to collaborate in that way with Friends.”
    That is true, but e.g. Git is not too complicato, too, and you could keep control about your data, use free software and open file-formats.

  10. rrix Says:

    Don’t forget about http://hayst.ac

  11. Andreas Says:

    DuckDuckGo is in my experience the only search engine that comes close to, and in some cases surpasses, Google. It’s a really, really good search engine with better privacy. The main reason why I’m not using it (alas!) is that it loads noticeably slower.

  12. William Says:

    There’s a difference between caution and paranoia.

  13. Kelly Says:

    Can’t say I really care, I turned on Google’s personal web search history a long time ago. If I really want to search something and not have Google know about it, I a browser profile with proxies and such that never signs in to Google.

  14. Max Says:

    I’m so totally hooked to Google… But adBlock is also my second best friend. I block everything, including Google’s ad services. If they track me to give me better search results, good for me. Everything else they may do with the collected data is just a waste of CPU power. I haven’t seen a single ad for years…

  15. sredna Says:

    I have much the same fight, I really do not want to be data mined. I think the data mining done by google is unethical and philosofically broken. I do not want google to make my descisions.

    I do not mind google making money though, they provide a lot of nice services, and they also support free software in many ways.

    So I need a solution for the redirecting. Which browser lets you run a script automatically on load? Heading off to try scroogle for now!

    PS you could put your math question in words, that makes it a bit harder for bots to cope with :)

  16. ivan Says:

    if you want to do _real_ stuff and not just see how many visitors visit your website the two alternatives to analytics aren’t even comparable… they just lack too many features… there are others services, but always on saas services, so somewhere your data goes

  17. sredna Says:

    Tip for scroogle: If you create a web shortcut for it using the KHTML context menu, you have to edit the query to remove “n2&”.

    Google is using javascript to hide what they do! Now that in fact IS evil… Shame on you, google.

    I tried duckduckgo, but it does not like danish, or maybe it is a encoding issue. It does not find danish content either though, so not a valid option for me at this point.

    I tried yacy.info, but that is really not searching at this point, for 5 queries, it returned in total 1 result, and not a particularly good one. Maybe sometime in the future…

  18. Michael Says:

    yacy.info is the wrong address for YaCy (it’s a parked domain with a stolen search service), the right home of the project is http://yacy.net
    yacy.net is not a search portal but the home of a software for a search portal that uses Peer-to-Peer technology to combine the search results from all peers. This is like file sharing but it does index sharing. Every peer increases the search network.

  19. Irina Says:

    I’ve tried DuckDuckGo and it doesn’t seem to work for me– for one thing, it concentrates on domain name rather than actual text in the page, so when I search for ‘valdyas’ I get at least six pages (I gave up after that) with references to valdyas.org and mailing-list messages written by people with a valdyas.org address before it finds something that’s about the imaginary country called Valdyas. In contrast: Google’s second link is “About Valdyas”. This did make me find several links to defunct pages, so it may be marginally useful, but when I search for “thing” I want pages about “thing”, not pages that happen to be or to have been on “thing.org”. I don’t know if that’s an intentional choice of the makers of DuckDuckGo; if it is, they might make that public.

  20. The User Says:

    @William
    I am using the internet quite often, so my habits there tell more about me than I want a single company to know.

    @sredna
    Unfortunately scripted plugins are broken in Konqueror…

    @ivan
    What is that “real stuff”? If you want to see some special relationships, you can still use SQL-queries or R or something like that, that will provide more features than any Google Analytics, too. And I think it is immoral to let the user send their data to Google without their knowledge, most people simply do not know, in Germany it might even become illegal.

  21. Andre Says:

    The best alternative for Google Analytics is imho an own installation of Piwik: http://piwik.org/
    It’s a nice tool already, and they’re developing fast.

  22. uetsah Says:

    “use a script to remve the google.com/url-links.”

    Sounds interesting, does such a script exist somewhere (e.g. as Firefox plugin) ?

  23. The User Says:

    @Andre
    I had already heard positive statements about it, I did not mention it, because it requires JavaScript, but maybe it is the best direct alternative to Google Analytics.

  24. hate-engine Says:

    math captcha is good, especially when there are limits, integrals and differential equations.

  25. The User Says:

    @uetsah
    No, I do not know about it. But it should be easy to write. KHTML::Part::document() returns a DOM-document where you can replace all the stuff. Unfortunately KRubyPluginFactory is broken, have not tried Python and EcmaScript, C++ should work of course (“scripting” :P). I am not using Firefox, but maybe there is a Firefox-plugin for that task, or a generic url-replacement Firefox-plugin, do not know. But feel free to tell us about, when you have found one.

  26. Andre Says:

    The User: Not really. You can also use an image, e.g. a transparent Pixel, or directly call the PHP API in your application. See http://piwik.org/docs/tracking-api/

  27. whilo Says:

    I don’t understand why people can’t install a mailserver nowadays, it is always much more powerful than a webmail service like gmail. Postfix and courier are setup in at maximum two hours. And if you need some web storage get a cheap arm/old athlon (they are really efficient) and use it as a firewall + nas + some services you use often. You can login from everywhere, you get webmail with things like roundcube even from a different webserver and you have unlimited disk storage and performance (if you have the few bucks to upgrade when needed).
    But I have to admit one clear problem. Setup and maintenance of these services is a lot a higher than when you use a service of somebody else like Google. When things like the freedom box come it would be nice to have kvm + libvirt running and be able to simply download appliances for services you would like to run. I doubt that it can handle the load (as in memory consumption) in the beginning though.

    @Lex, @Kelly
    Most people have no clue about what it means to them when they leak all their queries and personal data to Google. You can stream a camera to the net in all of your rooms and walk naked around on the streets, do naughty stuff in public and this still doesn’t even tell 1/100 the information you leak to Google. Talk to a guy of social science and their statistics tools (they are nuts about that stuff), you are not that special, they can map you in groups of people with similar behaviour and likely know more about you than you admit to yourself. Stuff that is showing your prejudices and weaking of your capabilities to reason.

    @Lex
    The economical factor of Google being very strong at its services is definetly right, but they are not best. They only go so far as it serves their capitalistic interests. The whole advantage (and why it has become so popular) of foss, is that the interest of an owner never comes in the way of the advance of the involved technology. So if you want to have perfect collaboration services and perfect websearch (as in perspectives), then you should definetly try to support foss web services from the start. Even if you still use Google services for social reasons, you can then support these services by spreading the word, raise awareness or even better, by writing howtos bugreports or even code. Google is almost out of competition nowadays, which is not necessarily good for web search, so we definetly need an open infrastructure with things like seeks or yacy.

    If you have ever searched for politically sensitive information you will find out that Google truely censors and that its results are not necessarily meaningful in every context. At least this should become better.

    @The_User
    I have tried to criticize KDE lovers for being absolutely uncritical about Google’s intentions with GSoC. I have to say that criticizing Google is no fun. Most FOSS people are to some degree Google lovers and with stuff like GSoC, Google assures that some Google-loving FOSS developers always integrate their services for free in the apps. Now this is not a bad thing, and therefore it is difficult to argue. The problem is that once Google services are integrated the need for a FOSS alternative vanishes. Google becomes a silent default web service that way and people then tell you that it is a good default service and therefore it should be integrated…
    The open web is really the next big target for FOSS and will be interesting times for completely new awesome possiblities.

  28. The User Says:

    @sredna @uetsah
    I have written a Konqueror-plugin removing those annoying links, but you should still access Google via a proxy and without cookies and without JavaScript.
    http://kde-apps.org/content/show.php?content=139536
    KRubyPluginFactory was not broken, there were bad messages (and I think those bad messages are my fault).

  29. Gentoo User #98321 Says:

    Thank you for this! I’ve been looking for an alternative to Google for some time now and Scroogle is perfect! THANK YOU!

  30. Markus S. Says:

    For web searching I use Ecosia. Its serach results come from Yahoo/Bing. Ecosia has no special good privacy rules (it just inherits them from Yahoo/Bing) but since all revenue generated through ads is spent on saving the rain forest, I can live with it.
    IMO all FOSS web browsers should default to Ecosia for that reason.

  31. Matija “hook” Šuklje Says:

    Michael is right! Terribly sorry for the wrong YaCy URL.

    The YaCy *project* URL is: http://yacy.net

  32. The User Says:

    Fixed.

  33. beniz Says:

    @Lex: privacy is only one side of the problem. Lack of innovation is a much more pernicious issue, because of business constraints. Typically, Google will not let you share your queries so you can collaborate with others on the results, pushing data to ‘followers’, and so on…

    Innovation requires freedom, is faster with free software, at lower cost. Freeing our minds from the “Google does the best, there aren’t any reason thinking of alternatives, they’re so good” is key. Google is a bunch of humans who make money, which is fine. They’re so human that they leave a lot of space to explore. Let’s explore this space, for innovation, through free software, collaboration and creativity.

    They’re is no reason we must remain locked up doing searches each os us in his own little corner, while we share so many interests.

  34. frank Says:

    Hm… I don’t see any url= redirects here, but there is an OnMouseDown handler. How good that I have scripts generally disabled in Firefox. I guess more than ever we need a more sophisticated Script model in Rekonq/Konqueror, closer to what NoScript offers.

    But thanks for the links, that duck thingy looks interesting. For starters the site is much more readable than google for some reason. And there is not much difference between pressing gg or dd into the address bar to invoke a search. :-)

  35. mathieui Says:

    I agree with the first comment, I’ve been using duckduckgo for a while, and it’s really nice (and classy, too).
    There is the possibility of HTTPS, post over get (the query does not show in the url bar), nice keybinds and options. And a good privacy policy.

    @Markus S.: I don’t think so, I don’t like the idea of endorsing all the advertisement system through «?good?» actions. If I want to help some organization that works for a better world or something alike, I’d rather give them the money myself rather than using ads as a proxy.

  36. The User Says:

    @Markus
    Well, are you clicking the advertisement?

    @frank
    Maybe in a different language-version they are still using direct links, if JS is disabled. You will probably notice it soon, too. Btw: I do not press anything in the adress bar to access my custom Google-proxy.

  37. SamiZhan Says:

    I do not think google is trustable at all. But since I haven’t found a better one.
    Do not use baidu , they are the most untrustable.

    Personally speaking , I think Google is a danger of FOSS community . Microsoft , Apple is awful , but they can’t kill the community , but google is much more dangerous. They may closed all LUG groups in Google groups one day. May be one day they will stop GSOC. And they can truck us.

  38. The User Says:

    @Andre
    I have had a look at Piwik: There seems to be no simple way to access it without that ugly JavaScript or 1px-images. You can call it from PHP, but it will be done via PHP and cookies will not work etc., ugly…

  39. leo_rockway Says:

    awstats is nice for site statistics. It’s very simple.
    Also, +1 to DuckDuckGo.

Leave a Reply

XHTML: Use <blockquote cite="name"> for quotations, <pre lang="text    ∨ cpp-qt ∨ cpp ∨ bash ∨ other language"> for code, [latex] for formulas and <em> for em. Contact me if the comment does not get published, it may have accidentally been marked as spam.

Anti-Spam Quiz: