Personal,  Security

Gremlins?

Remember when I wrote about the strange advertising issue I experienced recently? A friend of mine in another section of the country reminded me of another incident that happened several weeks ago. I want to share that incident with you today because this is becoming rather creepy.

As many of you know, I search out random subjects on the Internet for sport. I’ve done this for decades; whenever something pops in my head I reach for my computer and look it up. Maybe I do this since I grew up before the Internet was a thing and felt starved for information. I don’t know, but this is just something I do on a daily basis.

Several weeks back (a couple of months, maybe?) I was reminded of a high-profile criminal case in my area. I fired up my favorite search engine to refresh myself of the details.

I could find nothing.

I thought I was going insane. I remembered the case like it was yesterday; why wasn’t anything related to the incident showing up in my search results? Have I lost my touch? While I was digging, an old friend, who lives in a different geographical region than I do, happened to send me a message. I shared my frustration at my inability to locate anything on the incident. While I was venting, my friend ran a search on the subject.

The information I was seeking appeared on the first page of my friend’s results.

We were using the exact same search terms. We were using the exact same search engine. My friend pulled up the information easily but nothing relevant appeared in my results. We thought it curious, so I fired up the DuckDuckGo search engine and repeated the query.

I found what I was searching for on the very first page.

When my friend reminded me of that earlier incident, I realized that there may be something going on with my searches on this particular search engine in particular. For the past couple of weeks, I have ran troubleshooting procedures on my internet connection multiple times because when I would search for particular topics, the results page frequently wouldn’t load; if it did load and I clicked on a result, sometimes the link I clicked on wouldn’t load. Many times the results it displayed were completely irrelevant to my particular search.

Curious, I fired up Tor Browser to mask my location and identity a bit and typed in the queries that had been giving me issues.

The results appeared. I didn’t have a single issue clicking on the links or anything. I was able to locate the information I had been searching for without a single problem.

I don’t know what’s going on. I may be over-reacting. But I am starting to wonder if, for some mysterious reason, I’ve been shadow-banned on a particular search engine when I search out particular subjects. When combined with the strange advertising issue (which has yet to reappear since my Katie discussed it in front of our devices), I am beginning to wander if there is more happening in the background than I realize.

Over-reacting or no, I have started using Tor more and more for my everyday Internet searches. I don’t know what’s going on but I am starting to grow concerned.

If you are experiencing a similar issue, you may want to consider using DuckDuckGo as your search engine to see if that resolves your issue. If you are feeling paranoid (like I’m starting to become), you may want to consider installing the Tor Browser to obscure your searches a bit more. It isn’t perfect but it’s better than nothing.

And if you are experiencing a similar issue or have in the past, please let me know in the comments of this post. I would like to find out if this is an isolated occurrence.

NOTE: This bit of information is for the curious.


It is hypocritical to run a website about buying and living on less while begging your readers to buy your crap so I refuse to do it. That said, I live on the money I receive from book sales, so if you can find it in your heart to pitch in I would be immensely grateful.

I’ve written a lot of books sharing my odd view of life in hopes of helping others. My most notorious book is titled The Shoestring Girl: How I Live on Practically Nothing and You Can Too, but The Minimalist Cleaning Method is pretty popular as well. You can find them at the following places:

Amazon
Barnes and Noble
Apple iBooks
Smashwords (non-DRM)

Thank you for your support!

4 Comments

  • John Grebe

    DuckDuckGo has been my goto for years and from the beginning its main selling points have been their lack of tracking and search bubbles. Most other search engines have a search bubble where what you are shown is a mix of what you search for and what it thinks you want to see based upon your location and your past searches. Thus if you are in England and search on “pants” it will bring up results for women’s underwear as compared to in the USA and it will show you “American pants” which the British refer to as trousers. (A fact that I know thanks to hearing about a poor English girl that took part in a high school exchange program and misunderstood the dress code of the American high school as banning women from wearing underwear.) To further complicate matters some countries have legal requirements on the search companies banning them from showing certain content for searches conducted in their country. So assuming you are not using a dark-web search engine on TOR, even then your results may be filtered depending upon what country the IP address is of your outermost layer of the Onion router at the time.

    • Annie

      Hi John!

      I’ve used DuckDuckGo sporadically for years, but out of habit I’ve used the one search engine I mentioned in the comments for ages. As for your last sentence, I am experimenting with both ways because I am now interested in the difference.

  • Tammara L Mills

    Many of my friends have noticed things like this on Google, Facebook, and other sites. Big Brother is out there and healthy y’all. He’s waitin till he’s strong enough to crack down with a vengeance. Mark my words!