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Many readers have written to rave about the search engine DuckDuckGo, because it promises privacy in Web searches.

But we've learned that it's only partially private. DuckDuckGo itself doesn't track your movements, but you can still be "seen" by the websites you visit, for marketing purposes.

An alternative is Startpage.com. Search for anything, and when the results come up, click "Anonymous View" next to the site you wish to visit. Your computer's address will be masked. So will your location, your browser, operating system and personal information. When you go on Facebook or Twitter, those sites can't share your activities with the websites that advertise with them.

We actually don't mind advertisers collecting data on us, since advertisers use it to show ads for stuff we might be interested in. But just like a late-night TV pitch, that's not all.

A report from thezebra.com, a site that searches for cheaper car insurance, says your search habits can, and often do, influence what companies charge you. For example, if you search for auto insurance on a computer, you would save 5.49 percent compared with the average payment. If you search with an Android phone, you'd pay an extra 2.25 percent. Searching with an iPhone would cost you an extra 4.93 percent. We're guessing that's because smartphone users are assumed to have more money than computer users. However, your email address also makes a difference, with Gmail users paying more. Even the time of day you search makes a difference, with morning users paying less.

WORD ALTERNATIVES

Our lead item last week about Microsoft Word touched a nerve. The nerve inside people's wallets, that is.

A bunch of readers weighed in after we said we were cutting ties to Office 365 and going back to an earlier version of Microsoft Word. Here's what they're using instead.

One guy said he refused to pay $100 a year for Office last year, and started using the free Google Docs instead of Word, and Google Sheets instead of Microsoft Excel. "Docs is totally free and is very similar to Word, plus, everything is automatically saved to Google Drive." We tried it too, and we find it works well.

Another reader said he likes Google Docs, but when he wants to work offline, he uses LibreOffice, free from LibreOffice.org. "Libre does everything I need, is totally free, including periodic updates, and always works. I can open and edit any file types, including Microsoft files (.doc & .docx), OpenOffice documents (.odt) and ordinary text (.txt & .rtf); it can also save to these formats."

Another reader says he wouldn't mind giving up Microsoft Office when he retires, but he'll miss Outlook email. We told him there's a free version of Outlook at Outlook.com. We tried it, and it works well. He said, "I like it that Outlook syncs with my iPhone contacts and syncs the email accounts so if I send, delete, or receive one, it's the same on my home computer and iPhone." But this is also true of Gmail, Yahoo and other services.

APP HAPPY

Tipster Guide, a free app for iPhones only, gives tipping advice for the whole world. When you cross a border, you are immediately notified of tipping etiquette for restaurants, bars, hotels, taxis and more. It also tells you which currency you should be using.

Afterlight is a free photography app for Android and iPhone. We were impressed by its ability to take a dull photo and liven it up. Among its special effects, it can turn a photo into a letter of the alphabet, filling in a hollow version of the letter.

KeyMe lets users scan their house keys or car keys and order a duplicate to be sent in the mail. There are also KeyMe kiosks in places like 7-Eleven and Bed Bath & Beyond, where the key is duplicated on the spot.

QuizUp has 20 million players in five languages. You choose a category, like geography or technology, and play a random player if you wish. Dots on the map showed players all over, including Africa and Australia. When we played we met our match in a top-ranked player from Portugal.

NUMBERS REPORT

According to a survey of 1,108 U.S. millennials who bought tech products on Amazon last year, there are some surprising trends, says Max Borges Agency, a public relations firm.

Fewer than one in four say they would buy a tech product if it's not available on Amazon. They like Amazon because of Prime (two-day) shipping.

Ninety percent consult Amazon Customer Reviews before making a tech purchase on the site.

A mere 8 percent of millennial buyers are likely to make a tech purchase on Amazon with a 3-star review, but 47 percent would purchase when the star count hits 4. The majority require a 5-star review.

(Note: Bob has long been skeptical of reviews on Amazon and other websites, such as Yelp. Of course, he is skeptical by nature.)

Technology purchases outweighed all others, at 61 percent, followed closely by the category of clothing, shoes and jewelry at 60 percent. However, smartphones are least likely to be purchased on Amazon, as respondents still look to brand retailers for assistance, pricing and compatibility. More than 71 percent shopped for tech products on their mobile device.

Bob and Joy Schwabach can be reached by email at bobschwab@gmail.com and joydee@oncomp.com.

Business on 01/12/2019

Print Headline: Search engine gives users option to conceal website visits

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