Google collects a tremendous amount of information.
That’s pretty useful — to Google and to us. They improve their selection of what search results to show us based on what we’ve chosen in the past. They also give us similar results that we’ve liked before when we search again.
And of course they tailor ads to our searching which, while creepy, is actually quite good — I’d rather have ads that contain relevant information and offers than ones that are utterly useless to me though in practice it doesn’t much change the likelihood that I’ll click.
Google search data is also fascinating in the aggregate for social sciences. What people are searching tells us something about what they’re thinking, and en masse it tells us something about what “we” are thinking as a society. It can also be eerily predictive.
Still, it is creepy. We voluntarily give up information, and likely don’t think much about what’s being collected. At least until the government comes calling, using it against us in a criminal prosecution.
Google will now let you download your search history so you can see it, archive it. And they will let you delete your search history. It’s been suggested that doing so really does remove it from their servers. I don’t know the extent to which they keep backups should the NSA come knocking with a FISA warrant (though the NSA probably has copies already).
Nonetheless, some will want delete their searches for the gifts they plan to buy their spouse, the cosmetic surgery they wish they could undergo, or the medical condition they were deeply afraid that they had (even though it turned out to be just a cold).
- Go to gistory.google.com
- You may be asked to log into your Google account.
- Options to download or to remove your history are on the upper right
(HT: Ed Krayewski)