The Washington Post

Google history: giving up the inadvertent search diary

Wednesday is the last day to clear your Google search history before the new privacy policy kicks in on March 1. But as they amp up their privacy settings, some bloggers are relinquishing that privacy to blog about the diary-like wealth of information they’ve found in their search history.

A security personnel answers a call at the reception counter of the Google office in the southern Indian city of Hyderabad Feb. 6, 2012. (Krishnendu Halder/Reuters)

If you’d like to see or erase your history, go to after you’ve signed in to Google. To get rid of everything, click “Remove all history.” Privacy advocates recommend getting rid of all the stored history before March 1, so when Google unifies its privacy policy, it can’t connect your search history to your actions on other Google properties.

For some, though, clicking delete feels a bit like erasing an old diary.

That’s how Faiqa Khan felt when she parsed her history in December. On Aiming Low, she wrote about a day’s worth of searches that included “James Dean,” “How to become famous on the internet,” “Jim Morrison,” “What does a sociologist do?” and “shower.”

“Googling is the adult version of ‘Mommy, why is the sky blue?’” she wrote. “This means that if Google is my ‘mommy,’ then I am the most annoying child on the planet.”

Sarah Pavis reported on her blog that her all-time top 10 searches are “pretty idiotic,” listing weather, restaurants, Trader Joe’s, and her own name.

And then there’s the artist Catherine Ramus, who goes by Albertine Meunier on YouTube, where she’s posted her entire Google search history since 2006, slideshow style.

In an artist statement, she writes: “Displayed as an inventory, my searches show a full self-portrait. Like a big souvenir movie, this video can refresh the small things I was looking for at specific moments. Beyond this autoportrait feature, this project highlights privacy concerns on Internet and more particularly privacy concerns on personal data and Google.”

Before you clear your history — did you find anything surprising in there? I would start with mine, but when I went to check it, I realized I had never enabled Google to track my history. If I had to guess, this month’s history would be filled with a lot of internet memes, planning for an upcoming trip to Miami, and hypochondriac-fueled searching for flu symptoms.

Maura Judkis covers culture, food, and the arts for the Weekend section and Going Out Guide.


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