This post was most recently updated on November 14th, 2018
Privacy has become a major concern in today’s world, and a big part of the concern comes from the Internet. While you might think your search history is for your eyes only, this isn’t the case. Actually, a search engine doesn’t respect privacy. Companies such as Google or Bing are consistently collecting your data. Why do you think targeted ads are commonplace?
Unfortunately, this data isn’t limited to your shopping preferences. Search engines abuse your privacy by collect other pieces of information such as IP addresses, hardware settings, address, etc. It’s overwhelming to know how much privacy we don’t have.
So how exactly do search engines trespass on your privacy? In this article, I want to focus on the forms of abuse these search engines show towards our rights to privacy.
1. Data Collection
Data collection is the number one concern when it comes to Google or Bing. When I say data collection, I’m not talking about just your search history. Computer information, networking information, location and various searching habits are stored on their servers.
Your data points are sent to Google 14 times per hour, according to Mobile Syrup. What’s even worse is that this was on a dormant phone. 14 times per hour without even searching anything. If that doesn’t send chills down your spine, I don’t know what will.
2. Targeted Ads
After your recent Amazon session, you may notice that most of your advertisements show products similar to what you were looking at. This is known as “targeted ads”.
Targeted ads are a common practice, but nowhere is it more rampant than our search engines, specifically Google.
Google runs many services besides their search engine: Youtube, Gmail, etc. This gives Google an upper hand in data collection since Google can see your viewing history, email conversations, and regular search results.
Google doesn’t let this information stay dormant like that phone earlier. Instead, they show ads based on your preferences. Watched a Youtube video about the latest game? Ads in the next few minutes onwards will only show that game and games like it.
3. A search engine doesn’t Respect Privacy with its Biased Search Results
This abuse of privacy does not stop at background collections and ads. Some search engine’s own search results are manipulated by your preferences as well.
For example, let’s say you lean left politically. A search engine such as Google will pick this up and tailor search results dedicated to your opinions. This way, you get more articles that you personally agree with, and fewer articles you disagree with. See where I am going with all this?
4. What can be Done?
Hearing about your privacy being ruined can be demoralizing. So many companies only care about your data that it seems hopeless to even resist. Fortunately, there are ways to reduce privacy snooping.
One of the ways to do this is to use special browsers like DuckDuckGo or StartPage. Browsers like these two pride themselves on a 100% private. These browsers never save your data, erasing it each time you exit the engine.
Another way is to look around in Google or Bing’s settings. These browsers typically allow you to turn off various data collections such as location or your browser cache. You can also browse in incognito to make sure no cookies are saved after your browsing session.
While these settings don’t restrict all your data from being collected, less is still better.
One setting unique to Google is being allowed to disable targeted ads, though this is usually on Android smartphones. Android smartphones have ad ID’s, but this setting can easily be turned off.
As I said in the beginning, search engines constantly abuse our data and trust. While there is not much we can do besides stop using these engines, we can help manage what data they collect.