Google’s been making strides toward the creepy over the past few weeks. Last week the company figured out how to tie real-world credit card transactions to its own advertising network to further its ad platform effectiveness. This week, Google has started experimenting on some user’s search pages: They will take your personal data and display it next to some traditional search data with the hopes that you’ll eventually look for everything through their classic search box.
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Your usual Google search lists a series of results not tied to your personal data. In the same bar that shows its Images, News, Maps and other types of searchable data, Google has rolled out a “Personal” tab for some users. The personal tab displays results tied to your Gmail, Google Calendar and Google Photos. This means you can search for information like your flight date or a photo from last year and watch it populate your Personal tab. When asked if the personal tab would affect your traditional search results now or in the future, a Google spokesperson said to Lifehacker that “We are always experimenting with ways to make Google Search more useful for our users. At this time, we have no further plans to announce.”
Some searches are already influenced based on users’ search history. Google’s instant results search data is “based on what other people are searching for and the content of web pages indexed by Google”. You can prevent random user data affecting your search results by turning off the Instant Search feature the same way you can turn off the personal data tab.
Not a fan of having your personal data shown next to traditional search results? You can head to Google’s privacy settings page and uncheck the “show private data” box. This will prevent Google from showing your data alongside its traditional search data.
It might seem like a privacy concern, but keep in mind that only you can see your search results tied to content you generated. Google’s only showing you data you’ve created in its own ecosystem. It’s just like searching for an email in your Gmail, except you’re using Google’s search engine tool. One the other hand, it’s just another example of Google using your personal data to sell ads and make some cash off of you.
Of course, if you really don’t like Google having such a hold on your digital life, you can always try to escape. Just be warned, it’s a lot harder than it sounds.