Friday, April 24, 2015

Big Google

Slate.com just posted a "fun" article on how you can download your entire Google search history (i.e., searches you ran while logged in to a Google product (e.g. YouTube, Gmail, Blogger)).

Presumably, the searches aren't tied to a specific device; they are tied to your Google log-in credentials. That sounds...fun? I haven't quite decided. Would you really want to know how many times you were searching inane stuff during class hours instead of paying attention? It's like calorie counting to really get a picture of your nutritional choices---being in the dark is sometimes preferable than recognizing your patterns.

At any rate, there are at least two valuable takeaways:

(1) Google letting you get that info means Google has and keeps for all time that info. They may not have it aggregated at the moment, but it seems they can just go call it up at will. It's not just the anonymous searching they use to target ads; this is tying searches to a particular person. What kinds of confidential client matters are you researching on Google, and are there any risks of violating confidentiality by conducting these searches on Google?

(2) Because the searches can be tied to a particular person, consider whether and how you could request this information as part of discovery. Conceivably the data has time and date stamps, so they could be used to prove a particular bad act online or to serve in as a defense (e.g., the defendant was shopping online for four hours while a bank robbery was being committed).

For some Google alternatives that may offer more privacy in your searches and just as much search power, try Ixquick, DuckDuckGo, or the free Firefox browser plugin GoogleSharing.