Skip to Main Content

Internet Privacy : Search Engines and Social Media

Tools and strategies to protect your privacy online.

Deep Dive into Privacy Tools and Techniques

What Does Google Know About You?

The variety of Google products, search, maps, drive, translator, etc., have been common features in many of our lives for nearly 20 years. In that time, Google's parent company, Alphabet, has also become one of the most valuable companies on the planet. So, how did a small internet startup that makes its products free to users grow into the behemoth it is today? Advertising is part of the story, but underpinning that advertising success is a surveillance architecture designed to collect and monetize as much user behavioral data as possible. These tools recognize our locations, likely emotional states, and past behaviors as a way to both predict future behaviors, and in some cases manipulate those behaviors toward desired ends.

You may be surprised to find out that Google knows more about you than simply the totality of search terms you have entered into Learn more by accessing your Google data by going to, and signing in via the button in the upper-right corner of the window, then clicking "manage your Google account." Here, you can take a privacy check-up, download your data, and otherwise explore and configure the data Google is collecting about you



Socail Media Platforms

Similar to the above social media giants like facebook have grown to be among the most valuable companies on the planet, due the the harvesting and monetization of user data. You can learn more about the economic logic of surveillance capitalism by watching the documentary to the right, or reading Zuboff's book of the same title. Similar to the above, you can get a general sense of the data facebook has collected about you by clicking on "settings." You can also perform an audit of your settings to determine how much you want to share and with whom.

Privacy-focused Search Engine: DuckDuckGo


DuckDuckGo is a commercial search engine that is free to use, and as such, does rely on advertising for revenue. However, unlike many other search engines, DuckDuckGo promises not to track user activity for any purpose, including targeted advertising. DuckDuck go is the default search engine used in the Tor browser, and it can be configured to be the default search engine through Firefox by downloading the DuckDuckGo privacy essentials extension. You can also find it in the app store on your device and use it as a stand-alone browser there.

Surveillance Capitalism


Shoshana Zuboff on Surveillance Capitalism