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February 22, 2012 1:56 PM   Subscribe

How to Remove Your Google Search History Before Google's New Privacy Policy Takes Effect on 1 March If you want to keep Google from combining your Web History with the data they have gathered about you in their other products, such as YouTube or Google Plus, you may want to remove all items from your Web History and stop your Web History from being recorded in the future.
posted by Sebmojo (76 comments total) 72 users marked this as a favorite

 
Google Dodged IPhone Users’ Privacy With DoubleClick, Stanford Study Finds

Google Inc. (GOOG) violated users’ privacy on Apple Inc.’s Safari Web browser, Stanford University research found, adding to a drumbeat of criticism from consumer groups and lawmakers over how the search giant tracks people online... Separately, a Safari Web browser user sued Google, accusing the company of violating privacy.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 2:03 PM on February 22, 2012 [2 favorites]


Hm. Google is alleging that they have no compiled web history on me, which sounds like a hugest and filthiest lie ever told in the history of falsehoods.
posted by elizardbits at 2:04 PM on February 22, 2012 [13 favorites]


Blazecock Pileon, don't forget to note that it was a security hole in Safari that let this circumvention happen - also, that Facebook and many other sites do the same thing - also that Google fixed this exact problem in Webkit 7 months ago and Apple has not adopted the changes. Some say this is the equivalent of saying "she was asking for it" but really, it just sounds like shoddy security maintenance on Apple's part.

And the thing with IE's P3P backdoor is just idiotic.

I'm personally of the school that thinks this privacy policy thing is a tempest in a teacup and easily controlled at that, but following the advice in this little tutorial (it takes 30 seconds) is probably a good idea regardless. The more you know, right?
posted by BlackLeotardFront at 2:08 PM on February 22, 2012 [3 favorites]


It seems to me that at this point the burden is really on Google to demonstrate that if you opt out of web history, then they're actually not recording your history and data mining it anyway. Of course, one could simply just not use Google's services.
posted by Burhanistan at 2:11 PM on February 22, 2012 [2 favorites]


Alternate search engine PSA:
http://www.bing.com/ : We all made fun of this at one point, but it is actually pretty nice now.
http://duckduckgo.com/ : Unrivaled privacy policy, good results, endearing cartoon mascot.
posted by Threeway Handshake at 2:12 PM on February 22, 2012 [3 favorites]


don't forget to note that it was a security hole in Safari that let this circumvention happen

Sure, but a burglar who walks through an unlocked window is still a burglar, at least in the eyes of the law, no?
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 2:12 PM on February 22, 2012 [6 favorites]


Is this where I smugly note that I apparently disabled web history when it was introduced?

Not that I remembered. I followed the instructions and got a page offering to switch web history on.
posted by hoyland at 2:15 PM on February 22, 2012 [8 favorites]


Awesome! now nobody will know that I have a porn problem, a drug problem, a lover of bad movies problem, an interest in home bomb-making problem, a memory problem, a drug problem, an erectile problem, a yada yada yada problem.
posted by ashbury at 2:19 PM on February 22, 2012 [7 favorites]


I too got the "Turn on web history" option, but I'm not a Google+ user, and my account is very old. It looks like Web History wasn't turned on by default for old accounts, but it definitely is for new ones.
posted by helicomatic at 2:23 PM on February 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


Very useful post - thanks! I am another one who apparently disabled this without remembering doing it. Google also doesn't know anything about me according to the last such post - which makes no sense to me given how many google products I use - but I don't mind! I hope if enough people opt out they'll get the point that this is evil and over-reaching.
posted by leslies at 2:24 PM on February 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


It looks like Web History wasn't turned on by default for old accounts, but it definitely is for new ones.

So now us oldsters can be all like "I had Web History off before it was cool!" before sobbing quietly into our keyboards, moaning "What have I become!? GGGOOOOOOOGGGGLLLEEEEE!!!"
posted by robocop is bleeding at 2:30 PM on February 22, 2012 [5 favorites]


Is it possible to download your web history prior to removing it? Sometimes I actually comb my web history to find that exact keyword I had to use to solve a problem in the past. I apparently have 48349 Total Google searches, and it has been useful. Generally, if I am looking up something slightly less scrupulous, I use an incognito window, but I'm sure there's a few forgotten searches in there...
posted by mysterpigg at 2:31 PM on February 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


"Here's how you can do that:

1. Sign into your Google account."
*…Sigh…*

Because, y'know, if I was the sort of person to be really paranoid about this, I wouldn't have a friggin' Google account in the first place!
posted by Pinback at 2:31 PM on February 22, 2012 [8 favorites]


My gut instinct about this is that Google will, in fact, retain this data for their own purposes; and that a special file will be created for those who "have something to hide". This will be the first thing that Vic Toews, Lamar Smith, and others of their ilk will demand when they decide to round up the trouble-makers.
posted by PareidoliaticBoy at 2:32 PM on February 22, 2012 [2 favorites]


it just sounds like shoddy security maintenance on Apple's part

Can we not criticise Apple please.
posted by mattoxic at 2:33 PM on February 22, 2012 [5 favorites]


I too do not believe that merely turning off (and deleting) your web history (which I've had turned off from the beginning) expunges that data (or its association with your account) from Google's servers. No way. That's their cash cow.
posted by spitbull at 2:33 PM on February 22, 2012 [6 favorites]


I know this is going to sound ridiculous but I had never looked at my google history and now when I went over there and took a look it seemed a rather interesting compilation of how exactly I've wasted hours and hours over the past years. So instead of deleting it I would like to request that google add some more features to the History section (come on, big charts, heatmaps, wordclouds -- work my data!)
posted by chavenet at 2:34 PM on February 22, 2012 [18 favorites]


Hm. I apparently did not enable web history in the first place. Instead I was asked if I wanted to start, and I clicked on "No, thanks."

This happened for an account I created back in November, too. Thing is, I don't recall ever coming across an option for this, but sometimes I don't pay attention and automatically select options to not track nor retain history for stuff.
posted by CancerMan at 2:43 PM on February 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


No thanks for me as well. At some point I guess I was concerned about this. Good work past self.
posted by Splunge at 2:48 PM on February 22, 2012 [2 favorites]


So I went and had a look, and I didn't have it turned on, which makes sense, as I always so no to that kind of stuff. However, on reading, it seems that my somewhat sarcastic assumption is, in fact true. From that page ...

If you'd like to remove items from your Web History, just follow these steps:

Visit your Web History page at google.com/history .

Select any items you don't want and click the Remove button. There's also a link to Remove all Web History.

You can delete information from Web History using the remove feature, and it will be removed from the service.

However, as is common practice in the industry, and as outlined in the Google Privacy Policy, Google maintains a separate logs system for auditing purposes and to help us improve the quality of our services for users.


To learn more about removing items from your Web History, please read the Web History Privacy FAQ .


I read that as meaning that all you have really done is turn off your own ability to see your search history. I know nothing about this stuff though. I just instinctively distrust marketers, and think that Bill Hicks was too moderate in his opinion about them.
posted by PareidoliaticBoy at 2:51 PM on February 22, 2012 [17 favorites]


Did this long ago. So, I am now good to search for anything, right?
posted by vidur at 2:52 PM on February 22, 2012


Is this so they can target you with ads based on your web history? Because I'd rather have targeted ads, ads that might actually interest me, than random ones.
posted by notmydesk at 2:58 PM on February 22, 2012 [4 favorites]


I don't understand. Why don't I want this? I already assumed Google used my browsing information across it's sites anyway. Why do I care? Won't it be like Amazon or Netflix giving me great recommendations on things I already enjoy?
posted by yeti at 3:00 PM on February 22, 2012 [3 favorites]


Yeah, what yeti said. If I were concerned enough not to have Google collect my web history (with settings off or on, regardless), I would not have ever used Google products in the first place. What about this new policy should make me suddenly decide that it's necessary to turn Web History off? Why should I assume that turning it off will have any effect anyway?
posted by blucevalo at 3:04 PM on February 22, 2012


Well, it will get to the point where Google notices what kinds of clothes you're wearing during GTalk video chats, so then they can make target ads for your summer wardrobe spending.
posted by Burhanistan at 3:07 PM on February 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


I don't understand. Why don't I want this?

I guess this would protect you from someone getting access to your search history if they had your account password, or if you were logged in to your e-mail.
posted by overeducated_alligator at 3:08 PM on February 22, 2012


I think the majority of people are ambivalent at best about privacy issues. Let's face it, most North Americans, and Westerners in general, don't have any real reason to worry about such things. So most of them probably don't even realize that there are such things as Google History, logs of your cell phone calls, methods for tracking you both on line and in real life. They think along the lines of "Yeah, I know that the CIA/FBI/cops can listen to me even if the phone is off, but that's not going to happen to ME." And they take the approach of what yeti said, that it's okay to get recommendations on things I already like. That's complacency, which leads to stagnancy, which leads to Google one day handing over all their logs to the evil Regime which leads to soldiers breaking down the front door and you in jail never to see the light of day ever again.

Or something like that.
posted by ashbury at 3:16 PM on February 22, 2012 [4 favorites]


So this is something that happens only when you're logged into to a Google account? Like others my web history of my Google account is opt in rather than opt out so I have nothing to do. They don't "know" my credit cards. They don't "know" what music I like. They don't "know" my web surfing history. They know I have an Android phone and where I live. I gave up the information freely. My government knows this too. As does the credit card company, Amazon, etc.
posted by juiceCake at 3:23 PM on February 22, 2012


Why don't I want this?

If you don't grasp that governments are constantly writing laws and signing secret agreements with each other to compel the production of your personal information, and won't rest until they have complete access to everything they can find out about you, then you haven't been paying attention. At all.
posted by PareidoliaticBoy at 3:28 PM on February 22, 2012 [6 favorites]


I'm generally a pro-privacy guy, and this kind of thing, which I find creepy, and this, which is ripe for abuse, is why.

TL;DR marketing is manipulative and surveillers gonna surveil.
posted by Grimp0teuthis at 3:29 PM on February 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


Some say this is the equivalent of saying "she was asking for it" but really, it just sounds like shoddy security maintenance on Apple's part.

I for one think it is really sweet of Apple and Microsoft to just trust the internet to do what is asked of it. "Hey internet, this looks like a third party cookie, are you sure it isn't? Oh, okay then, I'll store it".

Maybe if more browsers could be just a bit more trusting the love and compassion would spread and it would be better for everyone?
posted by markr at 3:34 PM on February 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


I think the majority of people are ambivalent at best about privacy issues. Let's face it, most North Americans, and Westerners in general, don't have any real reason to worry about such things.
I think most people don't worry about being prosecuted for things they do on the internet, unless they're really paranoid about illegal downloading. But I'd be a little worried about being *embarrassed* about things I did on the internet. I mean, I've googled medical issues that I don't particularly want my co-workers knowing that I have, just because they're kind of icky. My hunch is that some people would not be pleased to have the whole world know about their perfectly-legal preferences in porn. I think people might actually be a lot more concerned about privacy violations that really had to do with privacy than about the ones that had to do with potential criminal investigation.
posted by craichead at 3:42 PM on February 22, 2012 [4 favorites]


Anyone know if Google is collecting data from you if you use Chrome, but don't have a Google account? I'm thinking of giving up on Chrome just because Google doesn't seem to be trustworthy at all anymore.
posted by bswinburn at 3:43 PM on February 22, 2012 [2 favorites]


I think the majority of people are ambivalent at best about privacy issues. Let's face it, most North Americans, and Westerners in general, don't have any real reason to worry about such things.

Yet.
posted by T.D. Strange at 4:11 PM on February 22, 2012 [2 favorites]


@bswinburn: you could check out Iron, a privacy-focused version of Chrome, or Chromium, the open-source project on which Chrome is based.
posted by Grimp0teuthis at 4:16 PM on February 22, 2012


You can see all the data google has on you with google dashboard. They don't have download links there, but they have instructions on dataliberation.org. In this case all you have to do is go to the following RSS feed:

https://www.google.com/history/lookup?q=&output=rss&num=1000

Just replace the num with the number of entries you want to download, I guess? Looking at the 'trends' tab it looks like I have 29,971 searches saved.

Also, you can individually remove items from your search history. If you search for something and decided you don't want it in their database.

I think this is likely for stuff like recommending youtube videos, recommending people on google plus, all that 'social' stuff. That's probably where they're lacking. A site like Amazon is really good at picking books and music for you, but youtube kind of sucks at picking out videos (and lately it's been recommending videos that have been way downvoted for me at least. It probably doesn't help that I never upvote/downvote videos there)

I have to say though that there has been one really big annoyance for me with all this google integration stuff. I never wanted to 'link' my youtube account with my main google account, so I used a secondary. Okay, fine. But now when I go to youtube I'm logged on my main google account, so all my old subscriptions are gone (not that I had anything good, other then huskystarcraft), and there isn't any easy way to stay logged into one account on youtube and another on google.

And honestly most of the stuff I watch on youtube tends to be pretty stupid. So it ends up like, I don't upvote/downvote anything because I don't want to be 'judged' on it.

Also, if you don't want to be tracked on the web, you can use addons like better privacy for firefox. Of course if you're creeped out by google you're not using chrome right?

I do most of my browsing in firefox (without better privacy, but definitely with adblock). I do use chrome for web development, and viewing Facebook, which I never log onto with firefox, as well as google stuff like docs. Lately I've been seeing this link that says "Not signed into Chrome (you're missing out – sign in)"

Chrome was the one product that the new privacy policy doesn't apply too. But what's preventing them from changing it in the future?

The irony is that google is one of the few companies that actually lets you see what data they have on you, that let you delete it and let you save it. But still, since they're so integral to everyone's web experience, it's actually a huge problem.

There are alternate search engines out there, but they all kind of blow.
I think the majority of people are ambivalent at best about privacy issues. Let's face it, most North Americans, and Westerners in general, don't have any real reason to worry about such things. So most of them probably don't even realize that there are such things as Google History, logs of your cell phone calls, methods for tracking you both on line and in real life.
Yeah, no. that's ridiculous. No one likes this tracking stuff. But non technical people don't know how to stop it. At least with the web tracking stuff you can. If it's stuff like target monitoring your purchases to detect when you're pregnant there isn't even anything you can do about it (other then use cash, for now. But just wait until they cameras and facial recognition in all the stores (just like in minority report, except with your face rather then your iris :P)

Also I've made this point before. Even if you there is no secondary harm the invasion of privacy is itself a harm. Just like if someone put a camera in your bathroom. I mean you wouldn't have any reason to "worry" about anything happening because of the camera, except for the fact that people could watch you while you're in the bathroom. Not wanting to have your online behavior tracked and monitored and not wanting cameras installed in your bathroom both stem from the same desire, not to have your privacy invaded. I think it's pretty much a base level human desire. I'm sure you could come up with some bullshit evo-psych explanation if you wanted (like: Social faux paus damage our social standing in the primate hierarchy, thus reducing our access to the highest quality mating partners, resulting in lower status offspring ultimately reducing the success of our genes, bla bla bla)

But seriously the average person out there is worried, not just techies. If they're even aware of it. Which they're probably not.

In the EU they actually have laws that prevent this kind of abuse by private companies. And universal healthcare! Unfortunately euro governments do a lot of their own tracking.
posted by delmoi at 4:17 PM on February 22, 2012 [11 favorites]


I use an Android phone, and a while back I discovered that somehow, someway, Picasa (which is a Google product) was ripping private pictures out of my phone and posting them in a public album, which subsequently posted on my Google + account.

Luckily, no one at all uses G+, so potential embarrassment was avoided. I did, however, cancel my G+ account and deleted everything on my Picasa album.

Upon inspection a few minutes ago, it seems Picasa did it again since then. Now I'm pissed.
posted by Malice at 4:28 PM on February 22, 2012 [4 favorites]


Napster and Myspace. Oh, how the mighty have fallen. When Google and Facebook go into that spiral, and allow themselves to be aquired by what's next, your data goes with them.

If the new entity has an agenda of shaming candidates for public office, or deciding if teachers are unfit to steer the minds of youth, or producing tabloid exposes on the search histories of the elder statesman you have become by then, then down you go.

What are the chances that Obama's search history for life could be edited to put him in whatever light his political opponents desire?

This is how the old Soviet system worked. No one ever mentioned all the info they had on you. Until you came into any kind of power, even parochial acedemia. Then you were called in and you were shown your file. "Do you really want this revealed? Just provide us with a sterling acedemic transcript for our operative, and send it to Stanford."
posted by StickyCarpet at 4:37 PM on February 22, 2012 [3 favorites]


Is this so they can target you with ads based on your web history? Because I'd rather have targeted ads, ads that might actually interest me, than random ones.
Google is already really good at targeting ads. All the search data is probably already used for targeting search ads, and probably adsense as well. I think this is more for targeting content, like recommended youtube videos.

Google is worried about Facebook, so they're trying boost the stickiness and appeal of their content stuff, like plus and youtube. One way to do that is to show people stuff they actually want to see. So it's actually about being able to return relevant results without the user entering a search term at all.

The other thing is that, for example, they don't export RSS feeds for youtube channels or G+ streams. They want you to view the stuff on their site, not somewhere else.

Hmm, actually the RSS thing doesn't let you download the entire thing. It looks like it's just getting the past month or so.
I use an Android phone, and a while back I discovered that somehow, someway, Picasa (which is a Google product) was ripping private pictures out of my phone and posting them in a public album, which subsequently posted on my Google + account.

Luckily, no one at all uses G+, so potential embarrassment was avoided. I did, however, cancel my G+ account and deleted everything on my Picasa album.
Yeah, this happened to a friend of mine as well. The album is supposed to be private. It's actually done by the G+ android app (If you have that, maybe the picasa app does that as well, I don't know). I actually saw that option and made sure to uncheck it. when I installed it on my phone. But I was aware that that was the default behavior before I installed the app.

I think most people just click OK without reading it.

It was actually even worse for my friend: Google just rolled out the "search plus your
world" thing, so she does a google search for her own name and suddenly all the private pictures from her phone came up on the screen (since search + your world shows you pictures of people you have access too, and you have access to your own pictures)

So as far as she knew, somehow all the photos that she'd been taking with her phone were suddenly available to anyone who just typed her name into google (she has a pretty unique name)

So of course she freaks out and deletes all the pictures from G+, deletes the G+ app and even deletes all the photos from her phone.

It's completely ridiculous IMO. Google advertizes this feature with some sappy story about a dude who takes a bunch of pictures of his baby on his phone, then loses it. But like "oh, all my pictures were uploaded to google plus! Yay!" Except obviously that's not going to be the reaction people might have for a lot of the kinds of pictures people like to take.

In fact, I bet most people would actually be pissed off if they found out that pictures were being uploaded without their knowledge, even if they were just cute baby pictures.

(And no, mentioning it in a dialog no one pays attention to doesn't count as 'knowledge' - obviously people missed it. The only reason I knew about it was from watching an interview with Vic Gundotra and Sergey Brin, not something non-tech people spend time doing)
Blazecock Pileon, don't forget to note that it was a security hole in Safari that let this circumvention happen - also, that Facebook and many other sites do the same thing - also that Google fixed this exact problem in Webkit 7 months ago and Apple has not adopted the changes. Some say this is the equivalent of saying "she was asking for it" but really, it just sounds like shoddy security maintenance on Apple's part.
Google didn't do anything that it (and everyone else) does on most browsers. It was doing stuff like letting you log on to youtube automatically. The iPhone has stricter default settings in it's browser, but then it also has security bugs that let websites track people. Just like it had security bugs (or rather no security) that let people upload people's entire phonebooks.
Sure, but a burglar who walks through an unlocked window is still a burglar, at least in the eyes of the law, no?
Yeah it's not the same though. You can only be burgled once or twice. But you can be tracked and spied on by every website you visit. And unlike a burglary, you might not ever know. If there is a security flaw in a browser then it will be exploited. Really if google can do this then so can Facebook and a million other far, far scummier privacy invaders.

Google isn't the only website people visit, and the iPhone's lax security has meant that everyone has been able to track people this way, even if they double checked the settings and expected not to be tracked.
posted by delmoi at 4:44 PM on February 22, 2012 [2 favorites]


Is there a Firefox or Google chrome plugin that will parse the URLs from google search results? You, know so it will go directly to the webpage instead of their auto-redirecting outbound click tracking...thing?
posted by triceryclops at 4:55 PM on February 22, 2012


This makes me wonder about another wrinkle in the privacy laws.

I learned this when trying to get off of catalog mailing lists years ago.
I'd get off a bunch of lists -- then start getting junkmail from companies I never had heard of.

Finally I called one and asked how they got my name. The nice lady told me.

Companies have some requirement to protect _customer_ records.

They have to keep the personal information confidential (whatever that means) for their customers.

There's no requirement to keep the info confidential _after_ you end the customer relationship.

Once you're not a customer, they can resell what they know about you.

The last profit a company can make after you ask to be taken off their customer list is to sell what they know to anyone who'll pay for the information. They want that last bit of profit.

I'd like to think this has changed. Anyone know?
posted by hank at 4:57 PM on February 22, 2012


EFF has a blog? I'm adding this to my Google feed reader.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 4:57 PM on February 22, 2012


At the link:

[UPDATE 2/22/2012]: Note that disabling Web History in your Google account will not prevent Google from gathering and storing this information and using it for internal purposes. It also does not change the fact that any information gathered and stored by Google could be sought by law enforcement.

With Web History enabled, Google will keep these records indefinitely; with it disabled, they will be partially anonymized after 18 months.
posted by cashman at 5:07 PM on February 22, 2012 [2 favorites]


Also, "36 Attorneys General Question Google’s New Privacy Policy While Center For Digital Democracy Files Complaint With FTC"
posted by cashman at 5:08 PM on February 22, 2012


After removing my search history data, I switched all search engines on all browsers to Google clone: https://blekko.com/

I'll keep using Google for services, but I'm not going to tie my search history to them too. I wonder if and how that'll work out for Google...
posted by perspectival at 5:14 PM on February 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


Why are these 36 attorneys general worried about their new privacy policy but not the old one, which was essentially identical? Why aren't they equally worried about Facebook's privacy policy, since Facebook is similarly ubiquitous and has a similarly sized advertising arm?
posted by markr at 5:21 PM on February 22, 2012 [2 favorites]


From Blekko's privacy policy: "All of our advertising partners require that we send them your IP Address, user agent string as well as search keywords in order to deliver search keyword advertising to you."

So they won't track you, but all of their advertisers can and will and will build a profile of you from your search history. Make sure you set the "no ads" option which prevents this.
posted by markr at 5:26 PM on February 22, 2012


--Is there a Firefox or Google chrome plugin that will parse the URLs from google search results?--

YES PLEASE !! That is the most continually annoying little turf hurdle in all of searchdom.
posted by peacay at 5:50 PM on February 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


Turd not turf. I said TURD you silly little iProduct.
posted by peacay at 5:52 PM on February 22, 2012


Sure, you can try deleting your history, but Google has made a deal with the Mormon Church to get it restored after you die.
posted by evilmidnightbomberwhatbombsatmidnight at 5:55 PM on February 22, 2012 [7 favorites]


You could just use your hosts file to block the IP addresses used to gather information, like googleads.com. The addresses are widely available online through commonly distributed host files that block advertising sites. I didn't realize these addresses were even blocked on my main desktop computer, until I tried to go to the Google opt-out site and couldn't even access it due to IP blocking.
posted by charlie don't surf at 5:56 PM on February 22, 2012


I use an Android phone, and a while back I discovered that somehow, someway, Picasa (which is a Google product) was ripping private pictures out of my phone and posting them in a public album, which subsequently posted on my Google + account.


That's weird, as the only way I know of for that to happen is installing the google+ app on your phone, and then saying 'yes' on the 'upload my photos' page (just tested, and the default is still off). The default album it uploads to is 'photos from your phone' on g+, or 'instant upload' in picasa which is not a public album. You can of course turn that off, either in the google+ app settings, or in the overall account settings on the phone. There is 'sync picasa web albums' in the android account settings, but that only pulls photos to the phone, not vice versa.

Do you have a 3rd party camera app, picassa app or gallery app that might be uploading them? I think picasa tools has the ability to upload photos, but I don't think it's automatic. There will be something installed on your phone that's intentionally uploading your photos to picasa, as android doesn't have that capability natively.
posted by ArkhanJG at 6:38 PM on February 22, 2012


That's weird, as the only way I know of for that to happen is installing the google+ app on your phone, and then saying 'yes' on the 'upload my photos' page (just tested, and the default is still off).

In response to this and the other poster above, I /did/ have G+, and I thought that's what it was. That's why I uninstalled it just to be safe. These recent pictures were uploaded post-G+ being on my phone. I do not have a G+ app OR Picasa app on my phone currently, which is the weirdest part.
posted by Malice at 6:41 PM on February 22, 2012


WOW. I know I'm a luddite and all, but that Web History link delmoi posted is amazing. A literal timeline of my searches going back to... wow. Neat!

(totally msising the point, I know, but I always assumed Google had this, just never knew they would share it with me..)
posted by cavalier at 6:46 PM on February 22, 2012


If it's not going into the 'install upload' folder on picasa (which can't be made public even if you want to, I've just discovered) then it's not coming from google+ - you have some other app that's doing it. May be a good idea to plough through your apps list to try and figure out which. Though it could be an added function to the firmware by the manufacturer, I guess, in which case one of the 'default' apps on there would be doing it. (It's not that in HTC or samsung firmwares AFAIK)
posted by ArkhanJG at 6:48 PM on February 22, 2012


gah, instant upload'. Damn you auto-correct!!!!!
posted by ArkhanJG at 6:48 PM on February 22, 2012


Google Inc. (GOOG) violated users’ privacy on Apple Inc.’s Safari Web browser, Stanford University research found, adding to a drumbeat of criticism from consumer groups and lawmakers over how the search giant tracks people online... Separately, a Safari Web browser user sued Google, accusing the company of violating privacy.

I know you have become the Metafilter Google FUD king, but just in case you want to understand what really happened, I'd take a look at this writeup from someone is not at all affiliated with Google, but happens to know what she is talking about.

The short story is, a bug in Safari lead to cookies accidentally getting shared that should have. That's right, the Safari team made changes to their cookie handling logic and cookies that shouldn't have gotten sent started to get sent.
posted by aspo at 7:14 PM on February 22, 2012


That seemed too easy. I don't trust Google.

Of course, I am still going to continue using Google products. Between my various web activities and the fact that I have an Android phone, Google probably has the right to my first born child; it's probably in the new TOS.
posted by asnider at 7:27 PM on February 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


The aforementioned ad regarding the lost phone and baby pictures reminds me of the Facebook ad for Timeline, the video of which chronicles the life of a young man growing up, getting married and having a baby daughter. Both ads shamelessly appeal to our emotions to sell us on what essentially amount to some rather creepy and invasive uses of our personal data. Maybe the rule of thumb should be: the more babies we see in a social networking / new media ad, the more we should be on our guard.

-

In addition to Google Dashboard, you can also get a sense of what Google is inferring about you, down to your guessing your age, gender and your media genre preferences, by googling their relatively hidden "Ads Preferences Manager". Mine was more or less accurate, although I didnt think it told the whole story (specifying tv and videogames at the genre level but not books or music - is this because these industries are not as lucrative?). Unsettling, however, was its inclusion of 'Outdoor Sports - Hunting and Shooting,' which couldn't be further from the truth, would look bad in a govt subpoena, and could only be attributed to WoW and possibly a recent dalliance with a series of Legolas-ish archery videos on youtube.

It remains to be seen if these new privacy changes will exacerbate or minimize this kind of error. As good as their algorithms are, I continue to get Mitt Romney Badges in Google News and pointless lifehacker lists suggested in Google Reader (despite my repeated clicking 'not interested'). My opinion is most of the animosity towards advertising is because the majority of ads tend to be irrelevant to us, so to that limited end, improved psychographic marketing is a good thing. As others have pointed out, the fact that they collect such data is nothing new. The question is if/when Google will imitate the credit/debit card industry's current practice of selling spending habits to those who determine creditworthiness, employability, or eligibility for health insurance.
posted by marco_nj at 7:33 PM on February 22, 2012 [5 favorites]


The question is if/when Google will imitate the credit/debit card industry's current practice of selling spending habits to those who determine creditworthiness, employability, or eligibility for health insurance.

That would require a privacy policy change several orders of magnitude larger than this one. Say, like a mountain compared to a molehill.
posted by aspo at 8:20 PM on February 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


you can also get a sense of what Google is inferring about you, down to your guessing your age, gender and your media genre preferences, by googling their relatively hidden "Ads Preferences Manager"

Everybody should do this, because it's really quite interesting to see what they've deduced about you. Also, you can correct them and put in other data. That's the only way Google now knows that I'm a 98 year-old woman living in Botswana with serious interests in skateboarding and boll weevils.

I get some interesting ads.
posted by twoleftfeet at 8:21 PM on February 22, 2012 [7 favorites]


hoyland: "Is this where I smugly note that I apparently disabled web history when it was introduced?

Not that I remembered. I followed the instructions and got a page offering to switch web history on.
"

W00t w00t! Yay! Welcome, my brethren of privacy!
posted by Samizdata at 8:30 PM on February 22, 2012


My opinion is most of the animosity towards advertising is because the majority of ads tend to be irrelevant to us, so to that limited end, improved psychographic marketing is a good thing

Well, in my case at least, you're wrong. Some of us despise it on principle. It's because it's intrusive and obnoxious, and the weasels who manufacture that garbage have the moral compasses of pit-vipers and motorcycle gangs. I don't need some conscienceless, zombie-profit-machine collating my reading, film, and music preferences; along with my political persuasions, associates, income, habits, hobbies, location, age, and sex, (among other things) and storing it forever; that they then may sell it to anyone who happens to pay, ask for, or steal it.

Thanks anywaze, marketing scum. Now, get your facile, lying, manipulative bull-shit out of my face.
posted by PareidoliaticBoy at 8:36 PM on February 22, 2012 [3 favorites]


It seems I disabled web history when I signed up. The ads-preference page tells me that cookies are disabled, so it can't work.

I must be doing something right, because Google thinks I have something wrong.
posted by cmyk at 8:51 PM on February 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


That seemed too easy. I don't trust Google.

The thing is, if you express a preference like this and know the limitations of that preference (it does what it says on the tin, nothing more, nothing less), you can trust Google. They have enough people (like, billions) who express no preference and couldn't care less if they're tracked between sites, anonymized into a demographic, etc. These little opt-out features are easy, but that doesn't mean most or even many people will use them.

Most people don't really even know what Google is. They think it's the internet. They think it's Internet Explorer's homepage. They think Microsoft owns it. They use it as their URL bar. These people outnumber people like those in this thread by, like, ten thousand to one.
posted by BlackLeotardFront at 12:54 AM on February 23, 2012 [7 favorites]


Delmoi: Google advertizes this feature with some sappy story about a dude who takes a bunch of pictures of his baby on his phone, then loses it.

...later turned into a drama series starring Kiefer Sutherland.

My google account dates back from when the web history thing was opt-in, and I did. Because, although I know this allows google and 3rd parties to data mine it to understand me better, it also means that at some unspecified future point I can data mine it and understand me better. I mean I do know a bit from actually being me, but that's mostly anecdata and not reliable. 4.
posted by titus-g at 1:03 AM on February 23, 2012


Google knows, I researched camel milk as a way to deal with a few annoying little health problems. That I have weird musical tastes, am allergic to cats and dogs, looked to see if there are any girraffe farms in my state. Tried to find out how much camels cost in the US, have looked at animal disease sites, researched stuff on a huge variety of foods which can be foraged.
Researched a lot of Eastern European family history.... Dead ancestors,(Found out I have secret Jewish ancestors and probably more secret Muslim ancestors than President Obama) .. Birds .... LOLkats.... LOL dawgs...
posted by Katjusa Roquette at 8:26 AM on February 23, 2012


Why are these 36 attorneys general worried about their new privacy policy but not the old one, which was essentially identical?
There is a huge difference between having data in a bunch of different silos and spreading it all over the company.
So they won't track you, but all of their advertisers can and will and will build a profile of you from your search history. Make sure you set the "no ads" option which prevents this.

It's called adblock. However, it's likely that they are sending the data directly to their advertisers.
My opinion is most of the animosity towards advertising is because the majority of ads tend to be irrelevant to us, so to that limited end, improved psychographic marketing is a good thing
I run adblock. I don't spend a lot of time watching TV. The result is that traditional advertising is really, really jarring and seems way more obnoxious now then when I was more likely to be exposed to them. It's actually stunning how stupid the vast majority are.

So it's definitely not the case that seeing too many irrelevant ads makes them more annoying. The fewer ads you see, the more you realize how moronic they are and the more annoying they become.

It's like having a rock in your shoe. It's just a dull ache and maybe you don't notice it. But then one day it's gone and you realize how much better it is without it.

On the other hand, if the rock came back all of a sudden you'd notice, with full intensity, how obnoxious it really was.
posted by delmoi at 8:29 AM on February 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


Sooo...why did I only find the word "free" once when searching this thread? No doubt their financials are bloated to hell, but how on earth do we expect Google to further monetize any part of their business without collating and marketing their vast mines of data? I'm not trying to sound like a "circle-squaring" Google apologist, but really what does one expect when using a free service?
posted by obscurator at 9:19 AM on February 23, 2012


Thanks for that Data Liberation Front link above -- I've been wondering how to download a backup copy of my Gmail since someone posted the horror story about a person's whole history just disappearing.

One thing I was unclear on -- their instructions sounded like a way to move out of webmail altogether with Google, into IMAP (preferred) or POP. I like webmail, I just want a backup. Is there a different method? Any recommendations on mail client? Not to be all AskMe and shit.
posted by msalt at 9:29 AM on February 23, 2012


Doesn't work for me as a Google Apps customer - I guess if you pay to use Google services you get even worse service. Your account isn't authorized to use that blah blah blah; click here to learn more. Clicking here takes me to a "Page Not Found" error. Goofiness ensues.
posted by stevil at 10:55 AM on February 23, 2012


I just used the tool on this page to download my google web history into a CSV file. It worked nicely, even for the ~100,000 (!) items I had (since December 2007) in mine.
posted by needs more cowbell at 3:14 PM on February 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


but really what does one expect when using a free service?

You're right.
It's like cable television all over again. Used to be (back in my day) tv was free on the airwaves but you had to sit through commercials that the advertiser paid for. Then "pay cable" came along and (besides the dirty words and soft core porn) most of the first channels were commercial free! One way, the advertiser pays, the other way, I pay. But either way someone has to pay - nothing really is free.

It's just a bummer that I'm probably going to have to start paying to not get something I never wanted in the first place all over again.
posted by NoraCharles at 4:31 PM on February 23, 2012


I don't understand. Why don't I want this? I already assumed Google used my browsing information across it's sites anyway. Why do I care? Won't it be like Amazon or Netflix giving me great recommendations on things I already enjoy?
posted by yeti


If you're saying 'why don't I want this', then you should continue to allow google to be a part of your life. Asking "why should I care' is a ridiculous question.

If you don't care about privacy, you should continue to allow google to do as they please.
posted by justgary at 9:29 AM on February 24, 2012


To be clear, it was the former, "why don't I want this". When it comes to my personal history, I'm of the opinion that I'm far to boring to be of note. Not that other users shouldn't guard their history for whatever reason -or no reason at all- but that my own online browsing history isn't really particularly interesting... not to me, not to my mother, and certainly not to our future oppressive government now being incubated in the dark mines of tea partiers everywhere.

(So says the guy with the online pseudonym for privacy reasons.)
posted by yeti at 12:40 PM on February 27, 2012


And for the record, I did delete my web history. Better to be safe than sorry.
posted by yeti at 12:41 PM on February 27, 2012


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