Saving Your Searches: What Recent Google Features Mean For Your Security
This week, Google made it possible for its users to download their search histories. By signing in and accepting the terms and conditions, Google emails you a .zip file with all of your past searches and the date and time it was searched. It sounds cool, but is it worth your risk?
First, why has Google made this available to us? By showing you exactly what information it has about you, Google is giving you insight into what is out there on the Internet about you and how it uses this data. This information is what is used to finish your thoughts in the search bar, choose advertisements to show up on webpages, etc.
If you decide you want to download your search history, Google advises you read through the terms and conditions thoroughly, stating, “It’s not the usual yada yada.” The information sent to you has personal information, sometimes highly sensitive information that you will want to keep private.
So, what is included in this report? As previously stated, every search you’ve conducted with corresponding dates and times, but it’s more than that. These files include subject lines of your emails, your interests acquired from your searches, street addresses you’ve looked up directions for, and more.
If you choose to download your search history, it’s important to read those terms and conditions. It advises you to download your results to only a private computer, and considering the sensitivity of possible information enclosed, you’ll want to keep this in as secure a place as possible. Google also suggests enabling a 2-step verification around your results, meaning you’ll need more than just a password to open this file. This may be answering a security question or only being able to access the information from a certain computer. Google recommends look into data policies in your country as well before proceeding with the download.
Also, it’s worth knowing that you can remove your Google Search History. This article by Gizmodo gives step-by-step instructions on how to remove everything from your web history and stop it from being recorded in the future.
To download or not to download, in the end, comes down to what you choose, but the important part is to be making your decision with complete knowledge of what comes with the decision to click “OK.”