Unfortunately, someone collects this information and some of it may be personal. Many times the information that’s gathered translates into you feeling like a business is stalking you around the Internet. An ad from the same brand can show up in a Google inbox, along the right side of the Facebook news feed, and even at the top of a favorite news site.
Each time you click on a link from a search query, the business related to that link can access your search terms and even your I.P. address (which might lead to your location). Not only is your personal information at stake as you surf the web, the business data housed on your computer is at risk. So, next time you Google “Funny Cat on Roomba Video,” your helpful IT guy would like you to understand the details around browsing history and how you can protect yourself:
- The cache is a fancy name for the place on your computer where the browser keeps your recently downloaded materials. A download is anything from that PDF you grabbed to the logo at the top of the page. It saves you time as you move from page to page on a website. Clearing your cache will help to prevent runtime errors or buttons missing on a page.
- Cookies keep track of your movement within a website and the even “remember” your login information and form fields you completed (such as an email address and phone number). Not all cookies are bad but they are a prime reason you will see spammy ads throughout your Internet exploration, so it’s best to clear your cookies regularly.
- Your browser history is the list of websites you have recently visited. This list can be data collected over several months. While your browsing history may not be detrimental to your personal identity or corporate documents — you should delete your history if you use a public computer or if someone else can access your computer.
- Each search engine (such as Google, Yahoo, Bing and Ask) are going to have a different set of privacy policies but there are options allowing you to restrict what they can save. Take a moment to scan through these policies and figure out the options that best meet your needs. You can update your settings to limit URL predictions or even completely eliminate them by selecting the “Do Not Track” functionality. There is a search engine out there that is already set up for no tracking called DuckDuckGo.
- If you’re on a large business network, most of your data is tracked and audited. Not that everything you do on a business network will be scoured over, but you should be aware that someone can see your history, even if your history has been deleted or you have been using the private browser option.
It will always been in a web browser’s best interest to share the information they gather from your searches (advertising dollars pay the bills). A few minutes each week is all it will take to gain a little bit of control over your search privacy.