Is it a feature? Or an invasion of privacy?
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This is Leo Notenboom for askleo.info.
One of the extremely common topics I get questions on is privacy. Many
people are interested in maintaining their privacy, and others … well, others
are looking to invade the privacy of someone else.
So it was interesting to hear of Google’s new “Web History” feature which
keeps your search and possibly browsing history not on your machine, but in
If you have a Google account such as a GMail account, and you run the Google
Toolbar, there may already be lots of interesting information about what you’ve
been up to available for you to look at.
Give it a try right now: visit google.com/history and login with your
Google or GMail account if you need to. You may need to choose whether you want
Google to track only your searches or your entire browsing experience. That’s
up to you and it doesn’t matter what you choose for things to get interesting
I logged in and was immediately presented with my search history. My entire
search history. Since January. Of last year. Including which search results
I had clicked on.
I also got to see:
Which Google News stories I had clicked on
Which “Sponsored Links” I had clicked on.
Which Google Videos I had watched.
Which locations I had searched for in Google Maps
Google’s history also showed me my search activity over time, what my most
popular search terms were, what sites I found most popular, and even what times
of day I seemed to do most of my searching.
They even offered me an RSS feed of my search history.
Now, it’s no secret that Google can, and obviously does, keep all this
information. It’s perhaps one of their biggest assets. My concern is that with
so many people concerned about their privacy that this information is so easy
to come by, and is, for lack of a better term, operating stealthily, “under the
radar”. I’ve been using my Google account for a long time without any
indication or realization that this information would be preserved or ever made
available – even to me.
It should be clearer to people what they’re getting into when they sign into
their Google account.
And it should be easier to opt out of the data collection. Yes you can pause
it, but it’s on by default. Yes, you can log out of your Google Account, but
then all the other services provided by Google are unavailable.
So take care. The password to your Google account might just be the password
to your privacy. And for some of you: couldn’t this information be made
available to law enforcement?
Who knew it might be Google that could become Big Brother.
Let’s hope they stay “not evil”.
I’d love to hear what you think. Visit askleo.info and enter 11393 in the go
to article number box to access the show notes and to leave me a comment. While
you’re there, browse over 1,100 technical questions and answers on the
Till next time, I’m Leo Notenboom, for askleo.info.