Browzar a lewzar?

A Web browser built to truly protect a user's privacy would be a hot commodity these days as people fret over falling victim to user-profiling and AOLesque data spills.

Thus it's no surprise that the birth of Browzar generated so much excitement, in that it was hyped as just the kind of Web browser privacy-conscious users were craving.

However, some pundits, myself included, may have gotten a leetle overexcited, thus creating a misleading impression of what Browzar is and can do.

First off: Browzar isn't technically a Web browser at all; it's a wrap around Internet Explorer's rendering engine. (I guess the name "IE Wrappar" doesn't have the same flair.) For some people, that alone raises little Red(mond) security flags.

Second, it is indeed designed to protect your privacy and mask your search history -- but mostly only from people who share your PC. Browzar will automatically purge your cache, Net history, and so forth, so when, for example, your spouse goes Net surfing after you, he or she won't know that you were visiting RabbitsGoneWild.com. (Disclaimer: I don't know if that site exists. Feel free to test it yourself.)

And even so, as "mikx" notes at insecure.org, Browzar doesn't tidy up your IE index.dat file. Thus, a more ambitious person who shares your system still could discover your fetish for the furry and floppy-eared.

The most Browzar seems to do insofar as masking your comings and goings to the outside world is ... it eats your cookies.

The point, though, is that Browzar won't stop ISPs and search engines from compiling your personal information and search history. If you read the Browzar site's FAQ carefully, the creators never makes that claim.

Notably, Ajaz Ahmed, the main man behind Browzar, did invoke AOL's notorious data-spill when pimping Browzar: "Privacy is becoming a bigger issue... . The AOL story highlights the issue that some of the things people are searching for are very, very personal."

That's misleading in the context of what his product actually does, no? Like saying "Hurricanes are a big concern in the wake of Katrinas, so try out this umbrella I'm selling."

Interestingly, the Browzar FAQ also acknowledges that other products out there do what Browzar does, something a lot of techies have noted since hearing about it. "Although there are ways, on some Internet browsers, to erase history folders and so on," the FAQ reads, "it is complicated and involves a level of technical knowledge (and time) that many people surfing the Internet do not have."

So in summation: There's clearly a high demand there for non-techies out there to feel secure as they Net surf; the hype behind Browzar is a clear indication of that fact, and it's a shame it got overblown and created false hopes. Hopefully, though, we'll see products coming out down the road that do what people hoped Browzar could: provide a simple way to protect their privacy online.

Oh, and it would also be nice if companies would be more careful with our personal data in the first place.

Join the discussion
Be the first to comment on this article. Our Commenting Policies