Protecting your privacy online can be difficult. If you use Google, Bing, Yahoo, or any other search engine that records your IP address and search terms, there are some things — many things, it turns out — that you really shouldn’t search. Google, for instance, can combine your search history with more data about your identity, and associate them with a full profile that both the search engine and advertisers can use to get an idea of who you are, what you’re interested in, and what you’re most likely to buy. That should make you think twice about sharing your problems, your interests, and even inquiries born out of idle curiosity with a major search engine like Google.
It isn’t true that you can search for anything you want, delete your browsing history, and no one will know what you were reading. Google records what you search and uses that information to figure out how to target ads specifically to you. So it’s not just Google that knows exactly what you’re searching. As Google explains in its Privacy & Terms FAQs, “When you click on a search result in Google Search, your web browser also may send the Internet address, or URL, of the search results page to the destination webpage as the HTTP Referrer. The URL of the search results page may sometimes contain the search query you entered.” You might not think that the URL of a page contains a whole lot of useful information — until you consider an example like the WebMD page for an STD or the website for your hometown.
Even just for the ads displayed on Google Search, Google uses information on what you searched for, your location, and the time of day to choose ads. It also takes into account your previous web searches, your Google Web History, your history of visiting websites that advertise with Google, information from your Google account like your age and gender, and your previous interactions with Google’s ads and search results. With all that in mind, read on for five things that you shouldn’t ever search for when using Google.