What happens to your privacy when you do a Google search?
Search engines are so much a part of our lives that you might not put much thought into them. But even if you haven’t, they’re giving you a lot of attention – maybe more than you want.
Public search engines like Google, Yahoo and Bing collect massive amounts of data about their users. Every time you run a search, you’re handing over your personal information. And you don’t have any say about how they use it.
From minor annoyances like overly targeted ads to serious problems like cybercrime and exposure of private information, this violation of privacy exposes you to a whole assortment of risks.
To stay safe and keep your personal data personal, you should steer clear of the mainstream search engines and use a private search engine instead.
- Search leakage
When you search for something and then click on a link, you’re not just sharing your information with the search engine. (And that’s already something to be concerned about!)
You’re sharing it with every site that you click on as a result of that search.
In fact, when you visit any site, your computer automatically sends a lot of information to that site, including your User agent and IP address. These can be used to identify you directly.
So when you use a search engine and click on the results, it’s possible to trace:
- Who you are
- What you searched for
- What results you were interested in
If it sounds like a vague, abstract threat, think again. Your data is being collected and put to use even as you read this.
Keep in mind that if you’re logged into your Google account, what you do on Google-owned sites will be connected to you personally, no matter what device you use. This includes YouTube, Feedburner links and Google’s partner Twitter, as well as the obvious search engine, Gmail, etc.
On the sites you browse, your information is being used for web analytics, product recommendations and retargeting. (That’s when you check out a product and ads for it follow you around the internet for the next few days.)
Even worse, this information might be sold to a third party.
It’s impossible to say where your personal data will end up or what it might ultimately be used for.
- Avoid intrusive ads
Like any corporation, Google and other search engines want to make money. (I’m picking on Google because they’re the biggest and usually the biggest offenders in terms of privacy violations, but what I say here goes for any public search engine.)
And they’re very good at it. Google was worth almost $365 billion at last count.
You might wonder how they pull it off, since their services are free.
It’s mostly from advertising, which depends on using your personal data and selling it to various companies, ad networks and other third parties. And they use it to pester you with ads tailored to your “consumer dossier,” usually with little regard to how intrusive or just plain creepy this becomes.
These consumer dossiers can be surprisingly (and unnervingly) detailed. Beyond basic demographic info like your age, ethnicity, gender and location, they’ll track your income and shopping patterns. They know where is your home and probably where you work.
Even worse, your health, relationship and financial status might all be in your dossier.
- Keep your personal search history to yourself
When you make an internet search, normal search engines save a lot of identifying information. This includes:
- User agent
- IP address
- A unique identification stored in a browser cookie
- If you’re logged into an account, your name, email address and other details linked to the account
This creates a record of your search history that’s associated with you directly. You can’t control it, and you can’t clear it like you can with your computer’s history. The information belongs to the search engine now.
You can know a lot about a person from their search history. What they’re interested in, their political background, their health concerns, their secret fears and fantasies… Are you ok with sharing all of this with the world?
You don’t have to be a criminal or leading a secret life to be concerned with this. There are plenty of legitimate reasons not to want all of your extremely personal details spread around the Web.
Google has taken a blasé stance towards search history privacy. CEO Eric Schmidt famously told an interviewer, “If you have something you don’t want anyone to know, maybe you shouldn’t be doing it in the first place.”
Basically, he says it’s your problem if you don’t want the whole world knowing everything about you.
This doesn’t feel right to me and I think most people will agree. There’s no reason why I shouldn’t, for example, spend half an hour searching for “is it warts or skin cancer,” but also no reason to go public with my lumpy skin or hypochondria. (Just an example!)
There’s a real risk that your search history will go public, beyond even the search engines.
Most search engines have some process to make data anonymous. However, most of these attempts to separate personal data from personal identity have proven ineffective.
You might remember when AOL released the search records of some 650,000 users, supposedly for research purposes. Obviously this was without the users’ permission. Several of them sued AOL when they found their personal histories available online, and not so anonymous.
Plus, in the case of Google, search logs are only anonymized after 9 months, and cookies after 18 months. A lot can happen in that time!
Even if the search engines don’t deliberately release your search history, it still could go public by accident, whether through hacking, security holes or lost data. This happens often.
Or, it could be given over to law enforcement without your knowledge.
Although they pay lip service to privacy, mainstream search engines collect huge amounts of highly personal data, have no way of effectively securing or anonymizing it, and every reason to share it for commercial gain.
- Protect yourself from Cybercrime
It’s bad enough that big corporations are exploiting your personal information to make money. What happens when
your info ends up really in the wrong hands?
Identity theft is one of the most common types of cybercrime. It reached nearly record levels in 2016, and in the past few years, around 13 million people have fallen victim to it every year.
The information stored by search engines makes you vulnerable to cyberattack.
Your consumer data might even be used for identity theft overseas!
Keeping a low profile online, especially by using a safe, truly anonymous private search engine, is therefore an important safety measure.
Conclusion – get a private search engine ASAP…
There are tons of reasons to be suspicious of public search engines. These are just the big ones.
A Google or Yahoo search is something many of us take for granted, but once you start thinking about the consequences, it gets pretty unsettling.
My advice is not to try to censor yourself. You have a right to access information online. You shouldn’t have to limit your activities out of fear.
And you have a right to privacy. You don’t owe your personal data to anyone.
That’s why the best solution is to use a private search engine, like MyPrivateSearch or DuckDuckGo.
Private search engines do not collect or share personal information. They don’t track you or create a profile for you, and they don’t store cookies or keep records.
They’re just as easy to use as mainstream search engines, and they’ll keep you safe and anonymous as you search the web. It is true that most private search engine can protect your privacy, it is however advisable to make sure when using a private search engine that it was created by a reliable company and it gives quality search results.
Myprivatesearch.com was specially designed to give great user experience and keep you safe! using it is easy and free, simply click here and give it a try!