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February 29, 2012

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Done.

Thanks, Doc.

I tried to, but my web search appears to be off, and I didn't want to turn it on. That means I'm fine right?

done, thanks

I have no idea how to log into a google account. My email is AOL. Do I even have a Google account? What dire consequences will happen if I don't erase my history? Most of what I search relates to dogs.

On mine, it was under Account Settings rather than Account Services. Not sure if that is a quirk of localization, but if it isn't, you may want to correct the post.

Laura, type accounts.google.com into the browser and hit Enter. If it comes up with a "you have no Google account, do you want to create one?" type of screen, you're okay.

you're going to want to dump your Google histories *today*, before they get attached to the profile Google is building to track you all over the web.

Why? What is the specific harm that you're trying to prevent?

No matter what you do, Google will have a bunch of information about you. Their servers will analyze this information. If you unlink your histories, they'll have slightly less information...so what? Is the idea that Google having a computer run some algorithm on data about your web searches must be inherently degrading? Or do you think Google employees are scouring through your personal data? Or what?

Full disclosure: I work in a group that does internet advertising stuff for a major internet company (not Google). I actually write code that analyzes user visits across the internet. This sort of analysis doesn't trouble me in the slightest. I run an ad blocker because I despise flickering ads, but I don't do a bunch of easy things that would dramatically reduce my own web tracking because I know exactly what's involved and I don't care. I'm happy to answer questions about the small bits of the industry I know.

If other people do care, that's perfectly fine with me (although unlinking user histories seems less effective than lots of other things one could do...). But I do wonder about the wisdom of telling a bunch of low-tech folks that they HAVE TO DO THIS THING RIGHT NOW because mumble mumble. If you're going to scare people, it should probably be for a good reason. If you want to talk about online privacy and tracking cookies and browser identification entropy and ad networks, all so that people can make informed decisions, that'd be great, but...that's not what this post is.

By the way, Dr Science, do you still think that Google secretly made Chrome submit all personal internet visits back to Google? Because that belief seems at odds with this post. If you think that Google will secretly steal your private information by making your browser spy on you, then it doesn't make much sense to tell people that they should politely ask Google to obey a privacy request. Or do you think that most of Google cares deeply about user privacy while the Chrome developers have just gone rogue?

Purging your entire history is a shame. It can be very useful, because the nice thing about Google, is that they give you access to the data they have on you (and opportunity to delete it, and very often opportunity to export it to standard formats if you want to switch to a competing service).

Take a look at https://www.google.com/history/ . Want Google to forget all that? You can at any time. You can even delete singular events from it if e.g. there are searches that you think could give Google the wrong impression of you.

Take another look at http://www.dataliberation.org/ - that's a Google site, in case you don't notice.

The power to track you is there, whether you explicitly permit it or not. Punishing Google for being the large company who is by far the most open about what they know about you, and most concerned about your informed consent - well, I think it's a bit foolish and counterproductive.

Well, one reason to be concerned is that US intelligence agnecies will use the information that Google amasses. So, say you are doing some research on al qaeda and end up at some proponent websites. And say you were also thinking about a rifle for deer hunting. You make a security risk list and who knows what happens from there. maybe an armed drone meets you at the front door in the morning. But seriously, Google will share with intelligence agencies. For most folks that a bog who cares. For others, less so. Even if you are looking for tenure or political office in the service, that history could come back and bite you in the arse. I'd not only follow Dr s' advice. I'd take even further precautions.....and i do, personally.

You make a security risk list and who knows what happens from there. maybe an armed drone meets you at the front door in the morning.

No, that does not happen. I know that because no one can fire a hellfire missile in the US and blow up someone's house without it being a big news story. There have been no such news stories.

If the criteria for your risk list is 'read about AQ AND owns a rifle' then your list has millions of people on it. Which means it is worthless.

I guess Google might be illegally supplying the CIA with personal data. But in the absence any evidence whatsoever, I'm inclined to think of that as a nutty conspiracy theory.

Even if you are looking for tenure or political office in the service, that history could come back and bite you in the arse.

No, I don't think so. Google can't publicly release material about a candidate because that would prove that they're not trustworthy and their userbase would disappear overnight. And if someone else released that material it could be easily denied: there'd be no chain of custody, so its authenticity would be zero.

Link, thanks. I guess I don't have a google account.

@Avedis

This is simple. Download Chrome Beta from google. It allows you to create multiple identities on a single computer and switch between them. Create an identity for random searching BS - all of your sites/history/trends will be saved separately.

Of course if you want to search on Al Qaeda and fertilizer just hit CTRL+Shift+N and use an incognito window. From Google:
--Webpages that you open and files downloaded while you are incognito aren't recorded in your browsing and download histories.
--All new cookies are deleted after you close all incognito windows that you've opened.
--Changes made to your Google Chrome bookmarks and general settings while in incognito mode are always saved.

However Google points out this exception to incognito mode:
Browsing in incognito mode only keeps Google Chrome from storing information about the websites you've visited. The websites you visit may still have records of your visit. Any files saved to your computer will still remain on your computer.
For example, if you sign into your Google Account on http://www.google.com while in incognito mode, your subsequent web searches are recorded in your Google Web History. In this case, to prevent your searches from being stored in your Google Account, you'll need to pause your Google Web History tracking.

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