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2/1/2006
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Five Ways To Keep Your Google Searches Private

Word that the government has been seeking search data from Google has struck fear into the hearts of Internet Explorer and Firefox users. Here are five simple steps to keep outsiders from uncovering private information about your Web browsing habits.

The recent news that the U.S. Justice Department has been seeking search data from Google, Yahoo, MSN, and America Online has struck fear into the hearts of Web surfers. Many users are concerned, not because they've done anything wrong, but because they wonder just how much personal information can be gleaned from their on-line searches.

While the government action is aimed at fighting child porn, some computer-security pundits and newspaper columnists are raising concerns that even users who haven't gone anywhere near such toxic material could potentially have their searches traced.

Political debates aside, the question of browser privacy is at its heart a technical issue. Whether you're using Microsoft's Internet Explorer or Mozilla's Firefox , there are at five simple steps you can take to keep Web busybodies from uncovering information on your search queries.

Delete your history.

This one's easy, and obvious. IE and Mozilla maintains histories of all URLs which are typed into their address bars.

Clearing out the history is simple. Just go into "Internet Options," located under the "Tools" menu in Internet Explorer. (Here's a more detailed explanation from Microsoft.) In Firefox, histories can be clearing by going to "Tools" > "Options" > "Privacy."

That's something Robert Petrick apparently didn't do. During his North Carolina murder trial in November, prosecutors showed that his hard drive contained Google searches for the words: "neck," "snap," "break," and "hold." Petrick was convicted of the first-degree murder of his wife.

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