Trust Google? The National Security Agency, which routinely collects its data, does.
After all, it’s one of the companies from which Washington apparently routinely pulls data about what Americans are reading, doing, seeing, researching, hunting and contemplating.
So an entrepreneur says he has started an alternative service, which offers encryption services to keep your details, well, your details. Out of Google’s files. And away from the NSA.
The website is called Zeekly.com and founder Jeffrey Sisk explains it doesn’t retain search history, and also runs on 2048-bit SSL encryption to keep private what Internet users don’t want public.
On his blog, he explains that there are a number of steps a consumer can take to make the options for the government to access personal information a lot harder.
One of those is an encrypted search function.
“Like millions of Americans, I was frustrated when The Guardian broke the story on June 6th that the NSA has a top secret program called Prism that collects personal data on American citizens from all of the most well known and trusted technology companies. This included tech giants such as Google, Yahoo, Microsoft/Bing, Facebook, Youtube & Twitter,” he said.
“What made this story especially heinous as it unfolded is that each of these companies is prevented by the actual FISA court orders they were served from disclosing to the public their information is being intercepted by the government. These trusted companies all have privacy policies and tell their users ‘we take privacy matters seriously,’ yet we now find out millions of records are being secretly turned over to the NSA every single day. From the documents leaked to The Guardian by the NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, the government literally has unfettered ‘back door access’ to these vast databases.”
He said Americans now depend on the Internet.
“We find information, solve problems, pursue our interests, read news, make purchase[s], and socially connect with like minded people around the world. Granting access to American spy agencies to this level of information on American citizens is the most egregious assault on our constitutional rights regarding illegal search and seizure in the history of our country. As one of the original authors of the Patriot Act recently put it, they never intended the law to be used to snarf up mass amounts of data on unsuspecting American citizens. I think most of us already knew this was going on to some extent, but clearly this has far exceeded the original boundaries set forth by Congress.”
He continued, “I don’t think companies such as Google, Microsoft, Facebook or Yahoo are inherently bad. They collect this data to provide a higher level of targeted advertising and services for their users. Unfortunately, because of minimal oversight, the government is bending the rules to secretly obtain their data.”
And that’s the genesis for his Zeekly.com project.
It pulls information from all major search engines, but doesn’t store a users personal data, he said.
“This means that even if a court order [to obtain information] was presented, there’s no data.”
He said there are other steps that consumers also can take.
“Currently there are four main browsers that are popular in the market: Internet Explorer (owned by Microsoft), Chrome (owned by Google), Safari (owned by Apple), Firefox (open source owned by Mozilla).”
“Of these four browsers, the first three are owned by companies who are listed in the leaked NSA documents to be under FISA court order to turn over your search data. The last one Firefox seems to be exempt. This is because Firefox is an open source project (any software engineer/programmer from around the world can write code to improve the browser and then Mozilla coordinates what makes it into each new version of the software). Surely it is not impossible, but it is highly unlikely that Firefox has a mechanism to record your Internet searches. To me, this makes it currently the best choice,” he explained.
He also recommended the use of a Virtual Private Network. They are easy to install, he explained, and “it basically acts as your proxy when you are on the Internet. In other words, to the websites you are visiting, your requests are coming from the VPN’s server…. not your personal computer or cellphone/tablet.”