Use a VPN To Keep Your Google Search Private

Andrew Orr Informative Internet Guides

Google processes about 3.5 billion searches per day. That’s a lot of information flowing in and out of the company’s servers. But did you know that those searches may not be as private as you think?

Further Reading

Google Removes Ban On Personalized Web Tracking

10 Reasons To Use a VPN in 2016

Data Collection

We know Google collects your personal information. After all, it is an advertising company before a tech company. Usually, this is information that people willingly share with them, like filling out a Google+ profile. But some of the information it collects is data that you share whether you like it or not.

Methods of Collection
  • Click Tracking: Google collects all navigational clicks of every user in all of its services. These are the mouse clicks you use to navigate around Google’s web pages.
  • Forms: Along with the data you enter into forms, like username and password, Google also logs the time, data and location of each form submission.
  • Cookies: Google uses cookies on all of its websites. It also leaves DoubleClick cookies around to track each user’s movement across the web. This means that any page with either DoubleClock or Adsense ads follow you.
  • Server Requests: Google stores all requests to its servers in log files. Data it collects includes URL; IP address of user; date, time and timezone of user; language of search result; search query; operating system of user; browser of user.
  • Javascript: Google embeds bits of javascript in multiple websites. When your browser automatically runs the code in the background, Google can figure out some information about you, like location, operating system and browser type/version.
  • Web Beacons: Google also embeds tiny transparent GIFs into most of its checkout screens. Like javascript, your browser automatically downloads the GIF and sends information about you to Google.
Example of a web beacon. Can't see it? That's the point.

An example of a web beacon. Can’t see it? That’s the point.

Google Search

Of course, there are alternatives to using Google search. For example, you can use an alternative search engine called DuckDuckGo. This company respects user privacy and doesn’t collect your personal information. You can even use DuckDuckGo to search with Google. At the beginning of your search, type “!google”, then you can safely search Google using encryption.

encrypted_google-search

Image credit: Author

Google does make it easy to check your privacy settings to figure out which data it collects. If you visit “privacy.google.com,” you can take a Privacy Checkup, Security Checkup or go nuclear and delete everything. You can even download a copy of your data, which includes such things as photos, emails, contacts and even bookmarks.

Of course, you’ll need to use an adblocker to prevent cookies and beacons from tracking you around the web. You can also use TOR as a mostly-anonymous way to browse the web.

Alternatives

Another option? Using a VPN. VPNs are a surefire way to make sure you stay private while browsing the web. And it’s easy to start using one. A virtual private network is an extension of the public internet we already use. It lets users send/receive data over public networks as if they were directly connected to the private network. That’s what the “virtual” part means.

Benefits to using a VPN
  1. Stay safe on public Wi-Fi
  2. Keep your data from being tracked (like Google!)
  3. Stop government surveillance
  4. Get around censorship efforts
  5. Bypass local network controls
  6. Privately download and share files, like torrenting
  7. Communicate with other people privately
  8. Save money while shopping
  9. Watch online media regardless of geographical location
  10. Stop your ISP from throttling your data speed

You can find a great list for choosing a VPN here.