I share a computer with my roommate. Lets say she creates a Google account,
downloads the tool bar, etc. in order to save and view web history, but I do
not create an account. When she logs in to view and use the web history
feature, won’t she able to see what pages I visit since we share the same
There are a couple of different scenarios that could be at play here, since
there are at least two different histories that could be kept.
But regardless of which, sharing a computer with a roommate or with anyone
for that matter definitely puts you at risk for accidentally sharing more than
just the computer.
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If you’re signed into a Google account such as GMail or just about any
Google service and you remain logged into that account, then by default Google
will keep a history of where you’ve been on the web.
Visit http://www.google.com/history. Login with your Google account if
you need to, and you should see a history of sites you’ve visited:
If you see a long detailed history, then this feature is enabled for your
account and actively recording your browsing history while you’re logged in to
a Google account and surfing the web.
There are two quick approaches to avoiding this data collection:
- Sign out:
In other words, make sure that once you’re done doing whatever required you
to sign in to your Google account, you sign out when your done. Once you sign
out Google no longer associates your browsing activity with your Google
“If you’re signed into a Google account … then by
default Google will keep a history of where you’ve been on the web.”
Google allows you to simply turn off the history recording feature by
hitting Pause. In fact I inadvertently did this some months
ago, and sure enough, Google’s ignored my browsing history the entire time,
until I turned it back on again while writing this article.
To learn more about Google’s web history, just sign in to http://www.google.com/history and hit the Web History
Help link at the bottom of the page.
So all of that was really targeted at your roommate, because she is the one
that has the Google account.
The risk for both of you is simply this: that history is collected and
visible if it’s enabled (and it is by default), and your roommate remains
signed into their Google account. That means:
- You could view your roommates browsing history.
- Your roommate could be viewing yours.
It’s easy for you to protect yourself: visit any Google property that
requires a sign in, and if your roommate is already signed in, then sign
It’s not quite so easy for your roommate. If she inadvertently remains
signed in when you are using the computer then there’s not much she can do to
prevent you from snooping around.
Now, even without Google’s involvement, there’s other history involved: your
browser’s history. I’ve covered this in several previous articles, but your web
browser is also keeping a history of where you’ve been. Type
CTRL+H when you’re in your browser and you’ll see the history
And it’s always on.
So if you are concerned about your privacy, you’ll want to make sure that
when you’re done using the shared computer you erase your history. See the
links below for instructions.
The bottom line is that when you share a computer you really want to trust
the person your sharing it with. If not, you need to take extra precautions to
make sure that your privacy remains secure.