Escaping Google

Okay, truth time. How many of you have seen the “This stuff matters” box that pops up when you open a Google account?

How many of you have actually followed the link to learn about what’s so important?

Well, after seeing it one too many times and giving in to my penchant for clean interfaces (some might say phobia), I did.

Turns out Google is slimming down its various privacy policies for all its different services so that what you tell Google Maps is the same as what you tell Google Search about your privacy preferences.

What are privacy preferences and why are they important?

Well, Google tracks everything you do online and associates it with your Gmail account, if you are logged in. So say you have a browser open and are logged into Gmail and realize you need to find out the library’s hours. You open another tab and search Google for Robinson Music Library. Google keeps track of that. Pretty minor when you’re looking for a library. But what if you were curious about how to build a bomb and followed your hours search with “how to build a bomb.” And then, what if a bomb exploded outside your house  the next day and your searches just sat there like rotten eggs in Google’s vast data field. Okay, I’m being a bit dramatic here, but you get the picture.

A more sedate scenario simply involves Google’s use of your search behavior stats with the various marketers that use Google’s data aggregating services.

NPR had a great piece on Google’s data tracking this morning.

Libraries have always guarded patron privacy when it comes to searching for information. What you search for here stays here.

So what can you do about this Big Brother scenario?

I’ve masked those Big Brother Google Eyes by both pausing my web history on Gmail and adding Duck Duck Go as my search engine of choice.

In the bottom left-hand corner of their brilliantly clean search page you’ll find the following comforting words:

“We don’t track or bubble you!”

Deny Google the opportunity to manipulate your search behavior!

Just stick with us librarians. We’ll set you straight.

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