Google Search Privacy: Personalized Search

Ohye: Hi, my name is Maile Ohye. I’m a Support engineer at Google. In the second video in our series on privacy, I’d like to talk about the kinds of information that Google can use to personalize your search experience.

I’ll also show you some tools we’ve designed to help you protect your privacy while still being able to benefit from the improved search experience that personalization can offer. Google’s goal is to give you exactly the information you want when you want it.

With more and more information coming online every day, this is pretty hard to do. And oftentimes, there’s guesswork involved because the same words and concepts can mean different things to different people. For example, say you search for the word “b-a-s-s.” Are you looking for great fishing spots or checking out a guitar? Or how about golf?

Do you want to play a round on the nearest course or buy a Volkswagen? Our software can’t always answer these questions. After all, you’re the only one who knows exactly what you’re looking for.

But search algorithms that take into account your personal preferences do a much better job of getting it right. Here’s how. Knowing your IP address and domain, the country you’re accessing Google from, helps us make your results more relevant by taking into account your general location.

So if you’re in Chicago, and you type “football” into google.com, you’ll get different results than if you did the same search in London on google.co.uk. But your IP address and domain don’t tell us anything about your specific interests.

Knowing about you, in particular, can be our most valuable tool in delivering the results you actually want. That’s where Google Account comes in. You can sign up for a Google account with just a user name and password. It’s what you do, for example, when you create a Gmail account.

Your email and password don’t tell us personal stuff about you, like your name, age, or occupation. So why do we need them? Well, in addition to helping us verify that you’re really you and not someone else who’s using your computer, your email and password allow us to maintain a record of your Web History, the things you search for, and the sites you visit. We can use your Web History to rank your search results so that the information that you’re more likely to be looking for shows up at the top of the list.

Take that search for “b-a-s-s.” If your Web History tells us you’ve been checking out sites about the Rolling Stones, your search results are less likely to be focused on rods and reels. And if your Web History shows that you’ve searched for information about handicaps or clubs, your golf search results are more likely to be about the game than the car.

You can view your Web History any time you like. Just sign in to Google and click Web History. What about privacy? Well, you control every aspect of your Web History, including whether you want to use it at all. Say you’re searching for a gift for your husband and don’t want your search to appear in the Web History of a computer you share. No problem.

Just open up your Web History and click Pause. And Web History will stop recording your searches until you unpause it. Maybe you just want to keep certain types of Web searches or site visits private. That’s easy. You can just tick off individual items that you don’t want included in your history or clear your entire history with just a click.

If you do this, the only items we’ll keep a record of are the things we discussed in our first video: your search query, IP address, and cookie, but none of your personal information.

As you can see, we’re able to personalize your search results to help you find even more useful information when you search on Google. We also strongly believe that you should have control over what information we maintain about your Web History and when we can use it to personalize your search results.

If you want to learn more about Google search personalization and privacy, visit our Privacy Center at google.com/privacy. Thanks for reading.

Google Search Privacy: Personalized Search

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