The Pros and Cons of Search Engines Tracking Personal Data

Google Collects/Tracks the following data:
1. Search queries (with misspellings)
2. IP Address (does not tell who you are or always where you are- only general location) BUT your ISP can match YOU with your IP address
3. Unique cookie; does not tell personal information
4. Keeps log of query, ip, cookie, browser, time/date
Note: After 18 months Google will delete parts of your IP address and cookie to ensure privacy
Pros of Internet tracking for Consumers:

  1. Users get personalized search results based on what sites they visit (cookie tracking)

Example; Is Golf a game or a Car?

  1. Users get “interest based ads” based on websites they visit.
  2. Local search results based on IP address
  3. Website owners Use Analytics program (such as GA) to gather visitor information such as location, time on website, top landing/exit pages and much more.
  4. Local business websites show up more often because of ‘personalized’ search.

Cons of Internet tracking for Consumers:

  1. Location is tracked based on IP address
  2. Search query logs are stored indefinitely
  3. Local results will show up when looking for national businesses. (in major cities only)

Advantage for Engines:

  1. Can offer highly targeted advertising solutions to business. Ads show based on user location and what sites user visits.
  2. Finds common misspellings and native language querries
  3. Saves data to offer personalized, local and instant search results (and future apps)
  4. Higher click-through-rate of ads increases profit margin      

Tips for consumer privacy:

  1. If you have Google account go to www.google.com/dashboard to view all personal data collected so you can delete or opt out. (gmail, groups, web history, youtube, analytics, docs, maps, profile)
  2. To quickly clear Web History (when logged into google account) simply click “Web History” link at top of page.
  3. To opt-out of web history when NOT logged into google account click “Web History” link at top of page.
  4. To opt out of behavioral ad targeting (interest based ads) go to www.google.com/ads/preferences