I’ve been researching a break from gmail for a few months now.
(InfoWars) – As The Guardian revealed a fortnight ago, leaked NSA material claimed that the spy agency has direct access to the servers of nine companies – Microsoft, AOL, Yahoo, Apple, Skype, PalTalk, YouTube, Facebook and Google.
The consensus from the heads of the tech companies was summed up by the claim that “If they are doing this, they are doing it without our knowledge.”
As a direct result of the revelations, privacy-focused alternatives to the tools most people use to chat, search, and store data online have seen a huge spike in users.
Search engine DuckDuckGo, for example, which markets itself with the strap lines “Stop Watching us” and “Google tracks you, we don’t”, has seen record traffic in the wake of the scandal.
As reported by Search Engine Watch, since the PRISM news broke, nearly every day has been a record search day for DuckDuckGo. Earlier this week, the search engine broke 3 million searches for the first time, almost double its pre-PRISM daily search totals.
The search engine company says that it refuses to store personally identifiable information on its servers, where as Google, Bing and Yahoo do store the information for up to 18 months, regardless of whether the user is logged in to the site or not.
“That aspect of our site has been more attractive to a growing portion of users,” CEO Gabriel Weinberg tells TIME. “It was pretty creepy when you think about how much the search engine actually knows about you because it’s arguably the most personal set of data that you share on the Internet.”
Weinberg says that in just eight days, DuckDuckGo went from an average of 2 million searches to pass 3 million searches.
Other tools such as Cryptocat, which encrypts chat messages before they are sent, has seen downloads double in one week, while Tor, which facilitates anonymous surfing, has seen downloads increase between 20% and 30% in a week.
In a trend that mirrors traffic to DuckDuckGo, StartPage and Ixquick, two more privacy oriented search engines owned by the same company, announced that they also surpassed three million daily searches for the first time.
CEO Robert Beens is sure that the PRISM scandal has spurred web users to reconsider what they are doing online to protect their privacy.
“People are outraged over secret US surveillance programs and they’re looking for safe, effective search alternatives,” Beens said in a statement. “We’re excited at this growth and we welcome our newest users with open arms.”
“Our search traffic has already grown by 75% over last year, and now it’s really exploding,” Beens also noted.
StartPage and Ixquick market themselves as “the only third-party certified search engines in the world that do not record your IP address or track your searches.” StartPage allows users to access Google results with privacy, while Ixquick is a meta search engine that provides private search results that do not include Google results.
The company also intends to introduce an email platform with strong encryption, later this year. The product is currently in beta testing at www.Startmail.com.
“We’re happy to be a safe haven for people seeking shelter from Internet data surveillance and abuse,” says Harvard-trained privacy expert Dr. Katherine Albrecht, who helped develop StartPage and StartMail.
How have you changed your online habits?