Chapter 5. The
Dangers of Internet Search
Searching the Internet seems such an
act. Type in your search terms, see the results, click to a few
pages, and you're done. What in that process could possibly invade
your privacy or endanger your security?
In the wrong hands, plenty. Consider every step
of what you do during that process. First, you type in a search
(s) and send it to a search site. Some sites have ways of
keeping track of your terms by keeping them in a database and
matching them to cookies or logged-in users, so now, the site
one of your interests.
Next, you view the results and click those that
interest you. The site can track this as well, and now it has an
even better sense of who you are and what your interests are.
One search term by itself might not mean much.
But how about 10? 20? 500? By the time you enter 500 searches and
click thousands of results, the site could very easily put together
a pretty comprehensive profile about you. Do you frequently search
for information about high blood pressure? Do you click sites that
criticize the president? What kind of entertainment do you search
for? In a very short time, your searches can build up a
definitive profile about you.
The problem has been magnified because search
sites like Google and Yahoo! are no longer just search sites.
They've become entire universes in which you live when you go onto
the Internet. Google, for example, has an email service, a site for
searching for bargains online, a mapping service, downloadable
software to search your computer, an image search service, a
blogging site and a way to search
, a toolbar that can record
all the sites you visit on the Internet...the list could go on for
quite some time. And that's just a start. Google and its
, such as Yahoo!, constantly roll out new services all
the time. The more of these services you use, the more information
can be gathered about you.
All this is not to say that the sites use this
information for nefarious purposes, or even that they
gather this information. For example, Google doesn't keep track of
all your searches, unless you
tell it to do that. So,
why do it? Because it lets you
that list and makes it easy
to keep going back to searches you've already performed, or even
search within those searches.
To date, search sites don't necessarily track
everything they could about you. And they don't create personal
profiles about you to sell to the highest bidder.
The point, though, is that the sites
gather this information if
they wanted to. So, before you do another Internet search, at least
be aware of what it might say about you.
To help you better understand what you reveal
about yourself when you search the Internet, the following two
illustrations explain how Google works and what Google could
theoretically find out about you based on the services you use.
Again, Google does not track your activities to identify you
personallybut it's good for you to know what the search site could
uncover about you, if it wished.