Sweeping away a search history

Apr 07 2014, 15:42 IST
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SummaryHere are services that will allow you to search online without compromising your privacy

YOUR search history contains some of the most personal

information you will ever reveal online: your health, mental state, interests, travel locations, fears and shopping habits.

And that is information most people would want to keep private. Unfortunately, your web searches are carefully tracked and saved in databases, where the information can be used for almost anything, including highly targeted advertising and price discrimination based on your data profile.

“Nobody understands the long-term impact of this data collection,” said Casey Oppenheim, co-founder of Disconnect, a company that helps keep people anonymous online. “Imagine that someone has 40 years of your search history. There’s no telling what happens to that data.”

Fortunately, Google, Microsoft’s Bing and smaller companies provide ways to delete a search history or avoid leaving one, even if hiding from those ads can be more difficult.

Google makes it easy to find your personal web history, manage it and even delete it. Just go to http:// google.com/history and log in to your Google account. There, you will see your entire history and can browse it by category. For example, in the last month, I’ve done image searches for Gal Gadot (who will play the new Wonder Woman), “pointy nail trend” and “Wayne Rooney hair transplant,” plus a few more intelligent things, I’m sure.

If you would like this history to go away, click the gear icon in the upper right of the page and choose Settings. Here, you can turn off search history, so Google won’t save future searches. You can delete your history from Google’s database or just remove specific items from your recent history.

This does not opt you out of ad tracking, however. It just gets rid of a potentially embarrassing or damaging historical record. Google also lets you opt out of targeted and search ads on the web and in Gmail, at http://google.com/settings/ads.

You can turn off and erase your search history on Microsoft Bing at https://www.bing.com/profile/history. Yahoo lets you turn off future search histories but doesn’t have a way to delete the old one. Visit http:// search.yahoo.com/preferences/ to turn off your history.

Even with your history turned off, though, you are still sending a lot of personal data when you surf or search from all three, especially if you are logged in to your Google, Microsoft or Yahoo account when you search.

Gabriel Weinberg, chief executive at the alternative search engine DuckDuckGo, says there is a different way, and it can

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