CharlieMC (charliemc) wrote,

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Stop Google from Gathering Info on Your Searches

So the latest thing I've read about that has me in a lather (well, of sorts) is that many SEARCH ENGINES make 'collections of data' based on the searches of their users. (Yes, I suppose I was stupid not to realize it. I mean, I'm very realistic about what goes on with Adware and Spyware, after all...)

So... No big deal, right?

Okay, but keep in mind that if you have a free email account or 'passport' (Microsoft) or some other similar 'free' service with the company of the search engine in question, then they're keeping this data and the date is associated with YOU. They have your name (and other information) -- and they use cookies on your computer to gather data.

As an aside, this reminds me of that whole thing where Google (and other search engines) will display your address if someone searches on your phone number. It's not necessarily a bad thing -- but do you really want it happening?

Anyway, if you frequently use Google to search (as I do), there's a way to clear (somewhat) and then TURN OFF this gathering of information...

First, go to:

YES. You'll need to sign in. Of course, if you've never used any service with Google that required registration (such as Gmail, Groups, Wallet, etc.), then you might not have an account with them -- so no worries!

In my case I've used Google Groups a lot -- and also have a Gmail account (that I use very little).

Here are the steps to take:

  • Sign in (as mentioned before).

  • You can now look at the Search History page and see all the searches you've made since creating your Google account. Freaky, isn't it?

  • Select the Clear Search History button and pick the items you wish to remove -- then click the Clear History button. (Of course, even after you 'remove' items, there are logs and backups on Google's servers -- just for the record.)

  • To stop future data collecting, press the Pause button.
If you feel paranoia creeping up concerning other search engines, then you'll need to consider deleting or cancelling free email accounts (and other free services) -- and then cleaning out the cookies on your computer. Hell, we should all be cleaning up cookies regularly anyway -- using Ad-Aware and Spybot (and so on) on a daily (or at least weekly) basis...

That's why these services require that you allow cookies in order to use them, by the way. (Duh, Charlie.)

What sneaky crap... (sigh)

It just goes back to what I've always said about the internet: Nothing is really free. You're paying for it in some way. In this case, we're paying for so-called free services with a loss of privacy.

So, it doesn't matter? Well, let's play a game. I'm sure none of us will ever be on trial for, say, murder or child abuse. But let's pretend that I am (for whichever) -- and someone contacts Google with warrants and wants my search records. My interest in slash fic might seem harmless to all of you -- but who knows how some lawyer or court might view it? (Care to take a guess?) Or how about those times I've googled for 'classic nudes' (to make icons or fanfic banners)? Maybe someone would think I was a porn freak. And while you might be fine with it if I was a porn freak, somehow I think there are many who wouldn't be... (By the way, I've heard slash called 'porn' often enough by many people. So...)

Sure, sure -- they'd already have taken my computer and have all my slash fic. (And they could get that via my website, too.) But that's not the point, is it? There's just something that feels WRONG about companies having records of all my searches -- especially out of context! (And how the hell could they ever know the context? I wouldn't remember it myself after a day or two...)

Believe me, I think the web is an awesome thing. I love being online -- and I love web searches. There's a price for everything -- and this is the price we pay.

Anyway, just keep in mind that the internet isn't nearly as anonymous as you think it is! (I've certainly learned that lesson many times in the last several years. Cyber-stalker, anyone? Been there!)
Tags: 2007, google, may-2007, privacy

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