Search & Browsing Privacy

Search & Browsing Privacy - PeopleSmart

Search & Browsing Privacy

Many websites, online advertisers, and search engines employ methods to track your browsing and search history. The most common method for doing this is by placing a small text file known as a cookie on your computer, that uniquely identifies you as a visitor. While the cookies themselves are harmless, because they are unique they can potentially reveal patterns of website visits and searches. For example, if an advertiser sees that a computer with your unique tracking cookie has visited websites about raising children, they may use that information to show you ads for toys. Search engines can use your search history to recommend customized results to you. However, when performing sensitive searches (for example, related to mental health issues) this may not be desirable.

Who Can See My Search and Browsing Histories?

Depending on the search engine you use, your search terms may be recorded. When you click a search result, the website you visit may be able to see what search term brought you to their page. Usually, access to your browsing history is limited to your local computer and Internet Service Provider. However, when online marketers place tracking cookies on your computer, they can get a record of all the websites you visit for as long as the cookie remains on your computer.

What Can You Do About It?

  • If you desire better search privacy, the search engine DuckDuckGo encrypts all your searches and does not log your search terms, so you can use it anonymously.
  • Make sure to regularly clear your browser cookies to remove any tracking beacons.
  • If you use a modern browser such as Chrome, Firefox, or Safari, you can install the plugin, which automatically blocks online advertisers from tracking your browsing history.