Sunday, December 23, 2007 & the Customize Google Firefox Add-on

I was one of many who applauded last week for introducing the AskEraser, an option for a user to opt-out of search history collection. It seems the search engines, and anyone else, collecting a user's history should be opt-in, not opt-out, but nonetheless, it's a big step in the right direction, and I hope it generates enough buzz to increase Ask's small market share. Right now, for non-Firefox users, I'd be inclined to recommend Ask as the search engine of choice simply for this feature (and the fact that the search engine does a pretty good job, though the interface is clunkier than Google's).

For Firefox users, there's the Customize Google add-on. It looks good on paper (on screen?), but it's not easy to verify that it actually does keep Google from storing a search history. Of course, it's also hard to verify that the AskEraser works, but it would be quite a blow to Ask's credibility if it were just a placebo.

Another very nice feature of the Customize Google add-on is that you can set it to ensure that various Google connections, e.g., gmail, always use https connections. One of the few annoying features of gmail (yes, I'm a fan but leery of giving so much of my data to one company--even one that doesn't do evil) is that every once in awhile one glances at the lower right-hand side of the window and sees that the connection is not secure. This should correct that. How sensitive is most of my e-mail? Not very. How likely do I think it is that someone's eavesdropping on my gmail sessions? Not very. However, simply as a matter of principle, these things should be encrypted.

Now, back to AskEraser, Google, and not doing evil. Why does Google not offer a similar feature? And who will be the first to make such data collection opt-in, rather than opt-out?

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