Title: Anonymous Browsing Ain’t so Anonymous is it
First up this is a re-recording of Episode 2 of the original podcast. Due to a technical issue, when we recorded Episode 2, my voice was in chipmunk mode. I was working to “brighten” my voice and the whole episode wound up with Chuck’s voice fine but mine in Chipmunk mode. So… we created a new episode 2 on the same topic, Anonymous Browsing.
Did you know you aren’t anonymous when you are browsing in private or incognito mode with your browser? It’s true. So many things are collecting information about you while you browse the web and your ISP is logging all of it. In some countries, ISPs are required to keep these logs in case the officials or police want to see them at a later date. In the UK, this time period is six months. In the US, the laws are inconsistent, so who knows exactly what ISPs are doing.
Have you thought about your privacy on Facebook? We talk about ways to stop others from knowing you exactly and what can happen if they do know too much about you. And we talk about plugins that help protect your privacy and protect your browser.
And of course, while recording a technical glitch happens that convinces us a ghost must be in the machine.
Do you ever think about how many Google Searches you do a day? In the last 28 days I have done at least 411 searches. I will probably search at least four more times before I complete this post.
Now think about it. Every time you search, you usually never leave the first page of Google Search results. And Google sells AdWords to enable advertisers and businesses to pay to have their keywords show up higher in search. So this means chances are high, your top search results are “paid” results. This means they are not necessarily naturally occurring responses to what you are searching for. So does that mean that we may not be getting the most expert responses to our searches? Maybe and more often than not, yes.
Additionally from time to time I feel like a bottom feeder. Let me explain. Searching is like looking into a well for something. How often do we just take our buckets and fill then up, but we never return anything to the well? How often do we go out and post a blog post that explains a concept we know very well? Or do we just search and never comment or post? I feel a guilt and responsibility from time to time to post content to teach a new concept or to re-explain in a clearer way a concept someone perhaps has explained but it needed further clarification. Am I posting original content about WordPress, it is original in that I created it but more often than not, someone else has tried to explain an idea. When I search for it I am sometimes disappointed in the results and I feel it is required of me to post something or comment somewhere to clear up any confusion. When I am teaching often I will create videos that explain different ideas from installing Linux in a Virtual environment to installing WAMPServer or DesktopServer or installing LAMP stack from scratch, not because it hasn’t been done before but because I feel I am explaining one particular idea better than I have seen it else where.
But what if there is clearer content? And what if I can’t find it because it is buried on page two or three or even four of Google Search results? Also Google leans toward mobile sites over regular websites, it skews results based on keywords and metatags. It uses information it finds about how many times a page has been linked to in order to say “that” page must be an authority on something. Faster loading sites in Google’s mind are better sites so your blog post may be the best ever written on Quantum Physics but if your page loads so slow or isn’t optimized for mobile devices (where 60+ % of all searches occur nowadays), your page may never see the light of day.
And what if governments one day bought out search results? Could they sway the minds of the populace? Are we only as smart are our Google search? Is there actual knowledge you have in your head that is yours and yours alone? Did you search out and research and learn and verify the sources for the knowledge you have in your brain? Do you let Google remember everything for you? Do you read books on topics? Do you validate people who say they are authorities on topics you care about? Have we become “Google brained”?
Imagine a day where we no longer research anything. Imagine a world where all we know if what has been told to us by search engines because research is no longer taking place. People posting new, informative, well researched content becomes the minority and not the rule. And then suddenly there isn’t any new content. We will depend on news sites who have their own political leanings and they will direct us in the way to think perhaps.
Thankfully the World Weekly News doesn’t exist any more but what if a newspaper like that were the only source of information for people. The same thing can happen when we seek out only one source for any topic we want information about. Remember, everything we see or find could very well be “Photoshopped”. Think about it.