As a matter of fact, Google itself has even made it clear that though it’s easy to search for just about anything, there are some things you should never Google.
Protecting your privacy online can be difficult. If you use Google, Bing, Yahoo, or any other search engine that records your IP address and search terms, there are some things — many things, it turns out — that you really shouldn’t search.
Google, for instance, can combine your search history with more data about your identity, and associate them with a full profile that both the search engine and advertisers can use to get an idea of who you are, what you’re interested in, and what you’re most likely to buy.
That should make you think twice about sharing your problems, your interests, and even inquiries born out of idle curiosity with a major search engine like Google.
Even just for the ads displayed on Google Search, Google uses information on what you searched for, your location, and the time of day to choose ads.
It also takes into account your previous web searches, your Google Web History, your history of visiting websites that advertise with Google, information from your Google accounts like your age and gender, and your previous interactions with Google’s ads and search results. With all that in mind, read on for five things that you shouldn’t ever search for when using Google.
Below are the 2 Majors Things You Should Never Search on Google
- Don’t search for things that clue Google in to your location
As Jay Stanley reported for the ACLU, one of the earliest instances in which the powerful privacy implications of having your search history recorded occurred in 2006, when AOL released a large set of searches that had been conducted on its sites. While the identity of the searcher was replaced with an arbitrary number — so that all of the searches by an individual were still gathered around the same identifier — members of the media found that it wasn’t difficult to identify searchers’ hometowns, neighborhoods, age, sex, and other identifying details through their searches. The result was “an electrifying sense of just how intimate and revealing the information one ‘shares’ with a search engine can be.”
About a year ago, New York Times columnist David Leonhard told NPR about how search terms differ geographically, with major differences between counties where life is easiest and counties where life is hardest. A high prevalence of searches on health problems like blood sugar and diabetes, searches on “what might be called the dark side of religion,” searches about selling Avon or getting Social Security checks, and searches about “specific kinds of guns” occur in areas where people are more likely to struggle with money or suffer health problems. Your searches give your search engine a view of how economic trends manifest themselves in your everyday life — something you may not want advertisers capitalizing upon.
- Don’t search for information on medical issues or drugs
Tim Libert, a doctoral student at the University of Pennsylvania’s Annenberg School for Communication, found that more than 90% of the 80,000 health-related pages he looked at exposed user information to third parties. The pages he researched included commercial, nonprofit, educational, and government websites, and the finding is particularly unsettling given a Pew Research Center finding that 72% of Internet users in the United States look up health-related information online. Even worse? Google collects information from 78% of the pages that Libert looked at, which gives advertisers an easy way to figure out that a user has specific health issues, and find out what issues those are. Visits to pages on HIV/AIDS, for instance, can be combined with a user’s browsing history and lead to ads for HIV and AIDS treatments, which Ungerleider notes effectively outs a user’s HIV status.
A bigger privacy issue, Libert worries, are leaks that could expose people’s intimate health information to anyone willing to buy a hacked database. Stolen medical information is routinely trafficked on criminal websites, and are often used for Medicaid fraud and other scams. Third parties could match you with your medical search results, and advertisers could even discriminate against you based on your medical searches, even if they’re never connected to you definitively.
Culled from cheatsheet