Don’t let search engines mine your personal data
You probably saw the panic in the news when Facebook admitted that third party apps harvest your personal data. But you may not realise that search engines do this all the time.
Search is more personal than social
You share much more personal data with a search engine than you do even with your friends and family on social platforms like Facebook. You search for solutions health problems, relationship troubles, financial worries, medical information, porn and more.
All of your search data is collected to build a comprehensive personal profile – what you search for and the results that you click on. And even if you don’t use your name or are logged into a linked account (Google, Microsoft), your digital footprint can be used to identify your devices, and therefore identify you.
It’s not just your search queries
And it gets worse – the search engines routinely track you everywhere you go on the web via cookies and scripts embedded in web pages and rich media content. It was recently discovered that Google’s Maps app on Android devices tracks your physical location, even without your permission!
There are many reasons why you should care about your privacy, especially online.
Show me your searches and I’ll tell you who you are
Profiled throughout a lifetime?
Brian Schildt is worried that this is a massive problem for children who have grown up with the internet.
A child’s profile starts with their first searches for a school project, and follows them throughout their development into adulthood, capturing every interest, every worry, every silly thing they think it’d be amusing to search for.
Children are much more susceptible to advertising, and are easily distracted by advertising on the web and in videos. It is not until they are around 8 years old that they can tell the difference between advertising and actual content. That means we should protect children as they explore and develop, especially online.
Keep your data private when you search
To minimize the information that can be added to a profile as you search for information and browse the web, you can:
- block tracking cookies and scripts with browser extensions
- use a private and independent search engine
- use a private browser app on mobile phones