17 May 2015

Privacy? What privacy?Everybody uses Google these days for all kinds of things. If it isn’t search, it’s Google Maps, plotting the fastest route to your vacation destination, checking the weather, or letting your Android phone track your every movement to make Google Now services “useful”.

It’s pretty much a certainty that Google is tracking your every move. This is the price you pay for all these wonderful whiz-bang features that you have come to rely upon.

If you do value your privacy, there are a few tricks you can use. But, a word of warning: it’s probably much worse than you think.

Clear your Google Search History

First, you can clear your entire Google Search History. To do so, follow these steps:

  1. Go to: history.google.com
  2. Log in
  3. Click the gear in the upper right corner, and choose Remove Items
  4. Select: the beginning of time in the pulldown menu
  5. Click the Remove button

Well, wasn’t that fun?

Of course, these is no guarantee that your search history still isn’t archived somewhere on Google’s servers, or perhaps on the NSA’s servers.

Also, you can only clear your search history if you are logged in to Google when you perform searches. So, you might think that if you’re not logged in to Google, or if you use Private Browsing mode in your web browser, you’re safe.

Not so fast.

Non-Search Tracking

Google Analytics runs on damn near every web site in the known universe. It tracks all kinds of stuff. In fact, we don’t even really know everything they are tracking, but you can bet your bottom dollar it’s, um, “comprehensive”.

Now, you might think that if you’re not logged in, you’re safe. If so, you better read my post:

Browser Fingerprints: What they are, how they work, and what it means to you

I would bet any insanely large sum of money that Google Analytics is using some kind of browser fingerprint to track you. That would mean that even if you are logged out of Google, and even if you are using Private Browsing, your searches and other Google-related or Google-linked activity can be tracked.

It’s wise to assume that if it can be tracked, it is being tracked… And there is no history-clearing option for that kind of data.

Of course, I can’t prove that Google Analytics is using browser fingerprinting. But if you are worried about privacy, you should bet on it.

But then, I’ve always said there is no such thing as privacy on the internet, no matter how paranoid (or not)  you want to get.

What Browser Fingerprinting means in practical terms is that if you go to a news site, Google would know you’ve been there (even if you aren’t logged in to Google). Then, you visit an online store. Then, you visit Amazon. Then, you view an adult site, and so on. Google would know ALL.

This is exactly why advertisers love the idea of browser fingerprints: because they can custom-tailor ads for you, no matter what site you’re on. They can track your every move, and acquire all sorts of data about everything you like, don’t like, and so on. They’re already doing this, and they are generally tight-lipped and/or vague about HOW they do it…

Location Tracking

AndroidAnother little “feature” you might want to turn off is on your Android phone. Go into the settings, and turn off the Location feature. This should also disable the “feature” that uses any local WiFi networks to “enhance your location data, and save battery life!” See what they did there?

Frankly, I don’t need Google Now to tell me what the weather is like, because I can look up at the sky. Also, weather forecasts these days are basically useless anyway. If I want to plot a course from Point A to Point B, I can still fire up Google Maps. Yes, Google will know where I am, but in that case, it’s useful.

I just don’t see the point in Google tracking my every move. It’s none of their business, and the added features that are supposed to tranform my life into a Wonderland of Digital Lifestyle Goodness are just, well, ridiculous.

Sure, some of the features can be useful, but do you really need them? Do they really improve your life?

The Nuclear Option

There is always the option of not using Google Search, installing browser add-ons that block Google Analytics from loading on any web site, using a plain vanilla non-smartphone if you must have a cell phone, etc.

There are still ways to track you, of course. That’s the whole point of intelligence agencies, advertising, and giant corporations: to know everything they can (see what I did there?).

Personally, I go for the “Don’t make it easy for anyone, but don’t go crazy, either” option. I simply assume, and am always aware that, I can be tracked and online privacy has always been – and will always be – a myth.

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Erase your Google Search History and make Google more Privacy-Friendly
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One thought on “Erase your Google Search History and make Google more Privacy-Friendly

  • 19 May 2015 at 18:15
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    Thanks for this article Scott, simple and easy to follow!

    Reply

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