I was a little busy last week and didn’t have time to respond to this, but don’t worry the Google Web History isn’t going to pass by without me taking a well deserved swipe at it.
Since we’ve already had the already had the we’re Google and we’re here to help you version I’ll lay it out for you in more realistic terms. Google wants to get more data from you. Personalized search is part one, when they activated it they were able to better track what you were searching on and what you clicked. However unless you had the toolbar with page rank turned on after that the trail went cold. Problem is the majority of the people who turned page rank on were pesky SEO’s and webmasters polluting the data stream with their own sites.
What they needed was a way to get John Q. Public to activate the feature and send them data about which sites they were visiting. Like Anakin Skywalker this feature would bring balance to the Google force. So they turned on web history and went to some amazing lengths to make it easy and painless to turn on if you didn’t have page rank activated on your toolbar. The process to turn it off or de-activate is less well documented and much more difficult to accomplish. Sure you can pause it but do you think just because they aren’t telling you they are “recording” they have stopped recording? C’mon what do you think, search your feelings you know the answer.
I’m sure I’m something of an anomaly but I search a lot and don’t click. Sometimes what I click isn’t the best result, but I click out of curiosity or research. I also visit wikipedia quite often. Why, because no matter how horribly inaccurate and misinformed the data may be, it’s safe to link to and digg friendly to cite as a reference. Does that mean I want more wikipedia in my SERP’s, lord no. I think the world would be a better place if I had to implicitly use the word “wikipedia” for it to show up in everyone’s searches, even then it should ask “did you really mean wikipedia” just to be sure!
Then we have the your ISP is already storing that data, so don’t worry about us distraction tactic. Umm does anybody remember when they were 8 years old and they learned “two wrongs don’t make a right”? I’m not happy that the ISP has all that data but at least they aren’t trying to tell me I should visit site A instead of site B because I looked at something similar to site A last week. In fact they really don’t care where I visit as long as I pay my bill at the end of the month, Google on the other hand you care where I visit and for financial reasons. Sure it’s only affecting organic results for now, but if you don’t think better advertising targeting is a goal they are after, I’d like to interest you in this deed I have for the Brooklyn Bridge.
Here’s the question you have to ask yourself is giving all of this data to Google really better for you? Your browser can duplicate all of this functionality already, in fact it could do it several years ago. Please don’t be a ding nut and say with a Google account I can carry it around from my work computer to home, because I’m going to ask you does you boss encourage you to do your personal searches while you are on the clock or are you so lame you take your work home? Don’t try and outsmart me with the I travel or telecommute argument because if you did you’d use a laptop then it becomes a non issue, and if you don’t use a laptop then you’re probably making it up. Do you really think that personalized search is that much better than normal search. Have you ever used a computer program that’s really good at figuring out what you wanted with some degree of accuracy, or do you yell at Microsoft clippy like 99.9% of the population. Google wants you to use personalized search and web history so they can get their hands on your data. Sure they’ve been really good about handling your data and keeping it confidential to date, but it’s just a matter of time before the inevitable happens and something gets leaked. So don’t trust someone to do things in your best interests, trust yourself and just say no to web history.