Prosecutors say the rapper accused of fatally shooting hip-hop artist Takeoff outside a Houston bowling alley searched Google for information on using fake plane tickets to get an expedited passport and about whether he was a suspect in the case, according to a Dec. 15 court hearing.
Takeoff was the youngest member of Migos, the Grammy-nominated rap trio from Atlanta whose members included his uncle Quavo and cousin Offset.
Patrick Xavier Clark, aka DJ Pat, was arrested and charged in the Nov. 1 shooting death. Well known in the Houston area, Clark is thought to have a connection with the infamous Mob Ties crew.
Clark’s attorneys wanted his bond reduced from $2 million to $100,000 but state District Judge Josh Hill thought Clark could be a flight risk. His “Google searches for fake tickets cause me a great deal of concern,” the judge said, according to a Billboard report.
Circumstances of the arrest have brought attention to search engine surveillance and tracking.
There are some things you should never search for online — such as customer service numbers — according to Kim Komando, a radio talk show host who gives advice on today’s digital lifestyle.
Protecting yourself online goes way beyond using incognito mode, Komando wrote in a column for USA Today.
Komando described five privacy options you should know about — and their limitations — available online to keep Big Tech and advertisers out of your business.
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1. Know what private windows do
A private window, available in most browsers by hitting the three-dot menu near the search bar, only wipes out local data like your search history, cookies, and anything you entered into a form. It does not block what you search or sites you visit from your internet provider, work or school, or even a search engine, Komando wrote.
2. Stop searching using Google
Komando recommends Google alternatives StartPage and Duck Duck Go. StartPage pays Google for the use of its search algorithm but strips out tracking and advertising for a Google-like experience with the promise that your data will never be stored, tracked, or sold. You can make it your default search engine.
Duck Duck Go doesn’t allow targeted advertising and won’t track you the way Google does. Results are not based on your search history, and you’ll see fewer ads based on your search. It’s easy to use and install, and plugs in with all the major browsers.
3. Wipe your browsing history
Clearing your browsing history can save embarrassment and takes a few clicks in your browser of choice.
4. Hide yourself with a VPN
A virtual private network, or VPN, hides your IP address and your location, and it’s the most effective way of keeping yourself private online, creating a layer of protection between your devices and the internet, Komando writes.
Things you look up, such as medical conditions and people are all compiled into a dossier about you. A VPN sends your internet traffic through an encrypted tunnel, effectively blocking your identity. Without one, you’re handing over a ton of information to the sites you browse and apps you use, along with your ISP, your mobile carrier, and anyone else who goes snooping.
However, there are limits. Some VPNs track you or, worse, collect and sell your data just like all the companies you’re trying to avoid. Many cheap or free VPNs sell your data to ad companies. Komando said she uses and recommends ExpressVPN, a sponsor of her national radio show.
5. Use a privacy-focused browser
Komando recommends downloading the Tor Browser — the same one used to access the Dark Web. “That doesn’t mean it’s nefarious by nature,” she wrote. With Tor, your browser history and cookies are cleared after every browsing session. It also unblocks restricted websites and encrypts every website three times before you visit it.