Hide and Search: Disconnect for Android Makes Online Searches Anonymous

From TV show spoilers to vacation plans to embarrassing personal queries, most people have typed some very private things into Google, Bing, Yahoo and more. A new app called Disconnect can make those keywords anonymous to search engines and other web tools all too eager to suck up your personal data.

Today (March 25) the Paolo Alto-based company, which is also called Disconnect and was founded by former NSA and Google engineers, released updates to its app for Android phones as well as Chrome, Firefox, Internet Explorer and Safari Browsers.

MORE: 7 Ways to NSA-Proof Your Smartphone

The Android app, though still in beta, is available for free on the Google Play store. The browser extension is available from Disconnect's website. You can also use Disconnect from the Web at search.disconnect.me.

Disconnect isn't a search engine in and of itself; you'll still technically be searching with Google, Bing, Yahoo, blekko, or DuckDuckGo. Disconnect uses a VPN (virtual private network) to make it look like your search engines have come from its servers, not your device. This anonymizes your searches, so neither the search engine nor your Internet service provider (ISP) can access your IP address and other personal information. 

This traffic is also encrypted, so snoops can't peek at your data while it's in transit from Disconnect's servers to the search engine. Disconnect says it doesn't store the search traffic, keywords, IP addresses or other personal information that goes through its searches.

Disconnect got its start when founder Brian Kennish, while still an engineer at Google, developed the "Facebook Disconnect" browser plugin. Many third-party websites ping Facebook when you visit them in order to gather personal information that could help them advertise to you or track you. Facebook Disconnect, as its name suggests, blocks that connection, so you can browse the web without Facebook being able to watch you.

Recently, the makers of the privacy-focused Blackphone announced that Disconnect would be the phone's default search tool.

Email jscharr@techmedianetwork.com or follow her @JillScharr and Google+.  Follow us @TomsGuide, on Facebook and on Google+.

Jill Scharr is a creative writer and narrative designer in the videogame industry. She's currently Project Lead Writer at the games studio Harebrained Schemes, and has also worked at Bungie. Prior to that she worked as a Staff Writer for Tom's Guide, covering video games, online security, 3D printing and tech innovation among many subjects.