In the information age, people’s access to information is extremely convenient. From current affairs news to celebrity gossip, with a single click of the search button, countless information can be obtained instantly. However, few people realize that the search engines represented by Baidu search and Sogou search are actually double-edged swords. They bring convenient information while silently “spying” on people’s privacy.
In our daily life, our privacy seems to have nowhere to hide. E-commerce websites and video websites seem to understand our every move. As soon as the front foot finishes talking about losing weight, related advertisements and videos appear on the mobile phone screen on the back foot. All of this, in addition to the privacy “snooping” tools that come with apps and mobile phone systems, search engines are also important incentives.
For example, Xiao Hei searches for “metatarsal fracture” in Baidu, and the web pages opened after that will show advertisements for bone strengthening food and private hospitals. Even if the browsing history is deleted, related advertisements will continue to appear on various mobile apps. All of this indicates the hidden risk of privacy leakage in search engines. The moment we press the search button, there is nowhere to hide our privacy.
Baidu, Google, can’t keep privacy
As the world’s largest Chinese search engine, Baidu is an unavoidable information acquisition channel for everyone. When we use Baidu to search, the search engine will record our unique device ID, search terms, search time and feedback results of search clicks.
In other words, when we use the Baidu search engine, there are always a pair of invisible eyes staring at us, recording all our actions, and then feeding these contents back to third-party sites.
Maybe some friends don’t believe it, just use Baidu search, how can so much information be leaked. But if we think about it carefully, where does the search index, which Baidu publishes every day, come from. If it weren’t for collecting user information, where would the data of the search index that is being updated every day come from?
Of course, the search index seen on the bright side does not involve specific user information. In fact, Baidu associates this information with the unique identification code of the mobile phone, and then pushes advertisements to users. In addition, Baidu Browser can also combine GPS information and MAC address to classify the user’s region and push corresponding advertisements in a targeted manner. For example, if you search in schools, advertisements for teaching supplementary courses and teaching supplementary books will be pushed; if you search in hospitals, drugs and hospitals will be recommended in combination with the search content; if you search in gyms, protein powder and fitness equipment will be pushed. class of advertisements.
▲ University of Toronto research results
Baidu’s behavior of collecting user data has aroused many people’s disgust, and some even switched to Sogou, Google and Bing. Unfortunately, these search engines also collect user data and privacy. Take Google, for example, the world’s largest search engine. Back in 2016, Google changed its terms of service to allow Google to track information about merging ad data with Google account data. Google Search can be tracked across platforms and devices, and Google can access user private data no matter what device the user is using.
Does Private Browsing Protect Your Privacy?
User privacy collection and protection is like a cat-and-mouse game to some extent. Users are desperate to protect their privacy, and Internet companies are constantly trying to get it. In this cat-and-mouse game, users usually fight alone, while Internet companies are backed by tens of thousands of technical talents. With such a disparity, the chances of users winning are extremely low.
To combat ubiquitous privacy breaches, many users have turned on private browsing on their browsers, with no search history or history. It’s a pity that private browsing just doesn’t leave records locally, and search engines still know what you searched for. The principle is also very simple, all web pages we visit have a middleman.
▲ Baidu search results for “My Moments”
To give a simple example, Xiao Hei searches for the keyword “My Moment” on Baidu, and many search results will be displayed on the page. When Xiao Hei clicks on any one of the webpages, he will go through an intermediate “link”, which is Baidu encryption. After the link, the user records the user’s search terms and click records to make a paid API service.
Here, the user’s device Model, website address, family members, home address, and hobbies will all be aggregated into a user portrait, which is then linked to the phone’s unique identification code. In the eyes of third-party service providers, your basic information is at a glance. Search engines represented by Baidu use this technology to completely avoid private browsing. Even if we can clear the browsing information at the first time, it is only cleaned on the local side, and the information on the server side of the search engine is still retained.
In June 2020, Google was sued by users, the plaintiffs said that the Chrome browser incognito mode still tracks and collects user information, including repeated GET request records, the IP address of the user connecting to the Internet, user ID, geographic location, cookies and other fingerprints data.
In this regard, Google said that the browser does not save browsing history, cookies and website data, as well as information entered on forms. However, the website being visited, the employer or school, and the internet service provider may still see the user’s online activity.
Simply put, Google confirmed that private browsing is limited to the local side. In this way, using incognito browsing to protect privacy is tantamount to “covering one’s ears and stealing bells”.
No tracking engine, you deserve it
It has long been noticed that search engines collect user privacy. Many years ago, DuckDuckGo, an “anonymous search engine with no ads and no tracking”, existed abroad. This search engine with duck as its logo has a very simple privacy protocol, that is, it does not collect or disseminate any personal information of users. In addition, it can also realize anonymous search, block tracking scripts and website encryption, and prevent network tracking from the source.
Judging from Xiao Hei’s experience of using it for several months, it cannot be concluded that DuckDuckGo does not track user information. However, in terms of revenue, DuckDuckGo does not have any data exchange channels, and there is no company in the market that uses the data provided by DuckDuckGo to develop specific services. Consequentially, it can be deduced that DuckDuckGo has no reason to collect user data. A company that takes do not track as its slogan, privacy protection is its foundation.
For domestic users, the DuckDuckGo database is relatively insufficient, making it difficult to meet everyone’s search needs. Similar products in China include dogedoge and secret search. However, their technical strength cannot be compared with Baidu, Sogou and other companies, and they cannot provide stable search results.
For a long time, there was no common search engine without tracking in China until 360 search without tracking appeared. 360 This company has a bad reputation, and the 360 family barrels have also made countless people beat their chests. However, a non-tracking search engine that is stable and free of charge does solve the pressing needs of many people.
In the propaganda column, 360 Wuchai Search said, “The real privacy protection is not to “protect” after collection, because we do not collect, so your privacy does not need our protection”. It can be seen that Wuchai Search does not first collect user information like Baidu and Google, and then protect user information only for advertising recommendation, and will not be stolen by malicious third parties.
In addition, no-following search means that it provides objective and comprehensive content, rather than only showing results that are exclusive to a user, and will not appear recommended ads associated with users.
From the point of view of user experience, 360 no-chasing search does not recommend advertisements. As for whether to track user information, Xiao Hei has not yet found any solid evidence, so he can only pin his hopes on the conscience of 360 company.
DuckDuckGo, 360 no-tracking search, and a series of search engines under the name of no-tracking are all aimed at protecting user privacy and returning to the original intention of search engines. Compared with the ubiquitous privacy scraping methods of Baidu and Google, these lesser-known search engines are indeed a good alternative.
In the Internet age, users alone can’t keep their privacy at all. Weak users simply cannot compete with large Internet companies. Therefore, we can only start from two aspects. On the one hand, we should promote the judicial department to issue regulations on privacy protection and use legal weapons to protect privacy; Prevent privacy leaks at the source.