Seach engines store search history
September 5, 2014 3:33 AM   Subscribe

I think we know that the search engine providers store a history of your searches. We hear about law enforcement checking someone's search history for the poison and bomb-making searches they have done, etc. etc. But some search engines now do predictive search as you type out the letters. Auto suggestion or instant match or whatever they call it. So as you type .... b-o-m-b-, the suggestions and sometimes results appear (bombay bicycle club, bomber jacket, bomb timers, etc.). You can certainly get the search results you may be looking for without ever press enter. And with some, the search result change as you scroll up and down a list that it has suggested for you based on the first few letters typed. So when/what is the record of your searches made? It is every letter you type? or only when 'enter' is pressed? or the position of the cursor as you scroll through a list? Or only whatever's in the search box when a link is clicked (so you see read the page summaries without that being tracked, but if you click a link, then that's a search 'hit')? I don't know. Could you help me understand please?
posted by Xhris to Computers & Internet (2 answers total)
Yes, every time the search engine responds to any element of your input, including scrolling or typing in individual letters, the search engine will have a record of it. I would assume that it's not going to be as easy to retrieve as the list of your full searches, and the scrolling ones may not be individually correlated with your username.
posted by ambrosen at 5:06 AM on September 5, 2014

Any time that the search engine sends you suggestions, it can potentially record that query, and potentially tie that query to your IP address and any other data your browser sends with the request, like cookies the website has set in order to identify your session later and other basic information about your browser. Whether they actually store this data, what they do with it, and for how long is another question that depends on the company involved; most search engines have a privacy policy that serves as the disclosure for what they collect and do with that information. This day and age, it's probably a fairly safe bet to assume that it gets recorded for at least a little while on most search engines.

That said, if you're worried about this, you might try using DuckDuckGo which has a generally much more privacy-oriented privacy policy than other search engines.
posted by Aleyn at 4:32 PM on September 5, 2014

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