A new tool seeks to make your searches more private by hiding them in plain sight. TrackMeNot periodically sends fake, innocuous queries to search engines, making it harder for someone to glean your actual search habits by reviewing the companies’ logs that contain your queries.
The AOL release of barely veiled user search data is the proximate cause, but think about this a minute – each user of this program is going to be generating a lot of fake searches.
The tool, developed by two researchers at New York University, sends random searches, such as “boston clock” and “croissant,” to the four largest search engines — Google Inc., Yahoo Inc., Microsoft Corp.’s MSN and AOL. A fake search is made every 12 seconds under default configurations; the tool can generate millions of unique queries from its list, and users can add their own.
A whole lot of fake searches! Aside from the added traffic on the engines, if the searches are evenly distributed, I guess we can expect Google’s share to drop and MSN’s to rise. Then there’s what it does to keyword popularity and search ad pricing. The only saving grace is that there aren’t likely to be that many folks who want to have their browser chugging away in the background generating 300 searches an hour. Anyhow, if you want to do your part to increase entropy, TrackMeNot is available here, but requires Firefox.