TrackMeNot is a Firefox extension designed by two NYU computer science researchers to run in the background and periodically send search requests to popular search engines and portals like AOL, Yahoo!, Google, and MSN. Why would you want to do that? A couple of reasons. First, just for the fun of screwing with their heads. More importantly, though, when the companies release their search records to the public, it will be more difficult for anyone who’s interested to figure out who you are from you search patterns.
At least that’s the theory. The current version apparently doesn’t draw from a large enough base of terms or combine them intelligently enough to truly obfuscate search histories–it’s possible for a person to figure out which searches are from TrackMeNot and ignore them–but it’s a neat idea, and future releases should provide some real security and anonymity. In the mean time, go ahead and install it. It may not protect you from a tenacious sleuth, but the bogus searches should make life interesting for the companies’ profiling algorithms and eat up a little bandwidth. Who knows? Maybe it will make life just uncomfortable enough to convince an ISP or two that storing user data is a bad idea.