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Freeserve founder pushes private browsing

Ajaz Ahmed's latest venture is a browser add-on that automatically clears away your private data
Written by David Meyer, Contributor

The founder of Freeserve has unveiled his latest venture — a Web-browsing tool that claims to preserve the privacy of its users.

Browzar, as Ajaz Ahmed's brainchild is called, is a free application that can be downloaded and either saved to the user's computer or run directly from the Web site.

Although it is not the only way to surf the Internet without leaving easily found tracks — most browsers offer the option of deleting the details of visited sites and emptying caches — Ahmed has claimed that his offering is the easiest for the less technically-savvy surfer.

"It's aimed at normal people who don't realise they're leaving traces behind. Having a retail background enables me to think like a customer," Ahmed told ZDNet UK on Thursday. "I'm always conscious to keep things very, very simple".

Ahmed claimed the browser would find fans globally, as many Internet users around the world connect at Web cafés. He pointed not only to the security advantages of using a browser that automatically clears private data after each session, but also to the issue of other people seeing what users search for or what sites they visit.

Referring to the hypothetical case of someone searching for information on haemorrhoid treatment, Ahmed said: "If you share your computer, as most people do, that can be quite embarrassing."

"Obviously we rely on people making sure they're maintaining their own security by installing anti-spyware software and so on," he added.

The tool could prove useful to companies whose employees often have to log on remotely. Unless staff are issued with laptops, PDAs or smartphones, they could find themselves having to carry out sensitive searches or accessing Web mail systems from an Internet café.

Ahmed denied that Browzar could be used to effectively cover up illegal Web-based activities, as information on users' searches would still be accessible via the Internet service provider (ISP). Asked about the ethics of providing a tool that people could use to conceal their activities from partners and family, Ahmed said his company was "simply providing a platform for people to use and people use it for many things".

The browser is an Internet Explorer (IE) shell browser, in that it works alongside Microsoft's browser only, with "a lot of code [written] from scratch", according to Ahmed, who would not add what that code entailed. He claimed this approach would have its advantages for Browzar, in that "every time an update is made on IE then we benefit from that as well".

The browser, which is currently in beta form, is relatively small at 264KB, meaning new versions will take the form of replacements rather than updates. Ahmed promised expanded functionality in the future and suggested that further products from the company are on the horizon.

"We get revenue share from the [embedded] search engine [provided by Overture] and other products we'll be coming out with in the future," he said on Thursday.

Ahmed founded the Freeserve ISP in the late 1990s. The ISP was bought by Wanadoo, making him millions. It was recently rebranded under the Orange banner. His other business ventures have included taking the helm at VoIP company Callserve in 2004.

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