One of the hardest things to do is break a habit. And if you are on the internet, chances are Google is a part of your life.
More than three-quarters of people use Google Chrome as their internet browser (tinyurl.com/MAF-Google2), and about 95 percent of mobile searches globally (tinyurl.com/MAF-Google3). No wonder many people say “google it” instead of “internet search.”
For me to suggest you might want to use something else to goo—um, search the web doesn’t seem to make much sense. Even I’m starting to lose interest in this column.
But wait! There are reasons you may want to look elsewhere (pun intended).
One: Google knows a lot about you. Go to history.google.com/history and see for yourself.
Under “other Google activity” you can see your searches, how Google targets the advertising you see and your stored activity. And, because I have Google on my phone, I can also see everywhere I’ve been under location history for any day in almost the last five years.
Google will allow you to edit, delete or download this data. You can find out how (including for Facebook and Amazon) at tinyurl.com/MAF-Google4.
Two: Browsers shape your search results. Knowing your location and search history can add personalization to your results. On the other hand, Eli Pariser has proposed a “filter bubble” theory that such personalization limits diversity in our search results, giving a bias to what the search engine perceives your pre-existing viewpoints to be. Is that convenience, or restriction?
What are options you can use to add privacy to your searching? Google and other browsers give you the option of opening a private window to hide your search history and avoid cookies – but don’t make you completely invisible. Using multiple search engines on different devices can help obscure what they know about you.
Or, try a different browser. PC World’s Mark Hachman converted to Bing.com, noting the strengths of image and video search and that Microsoft Rewards will award you points for searching on Bing that he observes “can be redeemed for things you’ll actually use.” Other options include Ask.com and Yahoo.com.
Speaking of rewards, GoodSearch.com will allow you to donate to your favorite charity each time you search. DuckDuckGo.com and StartPage.com are two search engines that champion protecting your privacy.
For diversity, Dogpile.com fetches search results from several search engines, including Google and Yahoo, eliminating duplication.
Finally, if you are looking for specific information, try your local library. They have access to private databases and can search as human search engines to help you find the information you seek.
Google has created hundreds of products (tinyurl.com/MAF-Google5), apps and tools – so many that I couldn’t find one definitive list. So I can understand if you ignore this column.
(Pssst! But if you don’t – you’re welcome.)
Ken Satterfield is a former media specialist and current marketing coordinator for Word&Way.
4 Reasons Why I Switched from Google to Bing (PC World)
7 Reasons Google Search Results Vary Dramatically (Web Presence Solutions)
Six Google Search Tips to Find Anything Faster (Popular Science)