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TrackMeNot Upgraded

The TrackMeNot lightweight browser extension that protects web searchers against surveillance and data-profiling has been upgraded with some important features:

New in version 0.4.x

  • Dynamic query sets **
  • Option to select search-engines
  • Added statusbar context-menu
  • New windows for log/query display
  • Option for cross-session logging
  • New tools/context menu icons
  • Minor bug fixes

New in version 0.3.x

  • User-configurable query lists (see TMN->Options)
  • Randomized query-lengths (1-6 words per query)
  • Larger word list with ‘actual’ search terms
  • Better randomization of query scheduling
  • Now compatible with Firefox 1.5 – 2.0
  • Interface improvements

The most important improvement (in response to some criticisms) is the dynamic word list feature: TMN first submits ghost search queries with a small seed list taken from lists of most-frequent search terms published by the search companies. Using these terms as ‘seeds’, each TMN client dynamically ‘evolves’ its query list by parsing likely search terms from the results of each query and swapping these back into its ‘Current-Query’ list. With this upgrade, instead of a fixed set of two word searches, TMN submits queries like the following:

European rail passes, Local Internet Cafe, Stay connected with,Associate Member Meeting, Handmade leather guitar straps, Lindisfarne Retreat Center, earth, Also includes news stories, ideas plus Kanji Symbol, desperate housewives, Full screen animation, real time contests, expert analysis, Latest Mideast Coverage, iran, award winning documentary, Leading English Newspaper, hezbollah, international weekly journal, Hyperlinked encyclopedia article

The dynamic evolution of the word list is unique to each client, parsing the results of its searches for ‘logical’ future query terms with which to replace those already used.

Quoting the creators, “TrackMeNot may not radically alter the privacy landscape but helps to place a particularly sensitive arena of contemporary life back in the hands of individuals, where it belongs in any free society.” This upgrade is an imprtant step in that direction.

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