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Controlling the Product with Opt-in Features

As you can see, it's not all about searching. Some of it is about your relationship with the search technology and the vendor providing it. The last table for this article makes that relationship very clear; it describes how respectful the product vendor is of your rights to privacy, liberty, and managing your own affairs. All of that comes down to "opting in." In such arrangements, you get the option of participating if and only if you agree to opt-in. Products should not attempt to ensnare you or make assumptions about the kinds of relationships that you prefer. Let's see how these desktop search tools do. In this table, Y means that your opt-in right is preserved; N means that it isn't; N/A (not applicable) means that there's no issue either way.

View Table

Default Search Engine

Does the tool politely ask whether it can be your default search tool?

Web Integration

Does the tool ask you before mixing results from your private files with results from the web?

Insecure Search

Does the tool ask you before searching secure files such as web browser history for secure web sites, or does it just chew through that information without asking?

Registration

Does the tool ask before registering you with a server? Google is clearly the contentious example here, and has receive some flak in the press for their architecture. Microsoft is not far behind, though—it's not clear how or why they think I'm in Sydney. You don't have to send a cookie (or other technical bit of data) to track a consumer, and Microsoft may be using some sophisticated "hands off" tracking. We'll never know. Finally, AutoFocus is not always free, so if you buy, you have to register it with a supplied license key.

Engineering Feedback

Does the software politely ask whether it can send diagnostics about itself back to its maker? Such diagnostics are a catch-all for any information, and you'll never know what's sent, so opt-in is a must for this item.

Software Updates

Does the software ask for permission before seeking to download and install potentially massive patches?

Of all the criteria in this article, it's probably wisest to get your preferred opt-in strategy supported first and foremost. It's your life, and you have to be comfortable with the way your tools work.

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