Google search history privacy failure

Discussion of the inherent privacy concerns and poor usability of the website.


Recently I was given access to a shared Google account to enable me to manage a Google Calendar that we were using to manage some team activities. For weeks I was conducting Google search queries using the same browser that I used to manage the calendar, until it occurred to me that my queries were being logged, and some of my colleagues would be able to access them. I decided to log into to investigate.

Do no evil

I never used this history site before, and I found it difficult to use. In fact I rarely use Google, and in this instance as it was not my computer I was lazily using the default search engine, then trying to clean up the search history afterwards.

The main usability issue I has was that there is no multi-select to enable you to select all of your searches to to enable quick deletion, instead I had to scroll through pages of my search queries, deleting them one day at a time. Eventually I reached the end of my searches, and that is when I found one of my colleague's search queries over a period of time, specifically for:

  1. Details about a certain consultant urologist operating in a nearby hospital.
  2. Directions to the clinic of that urologist.
  3. Life assurance for someone over 50 with no required medical check.

You get the idea. Given the small pool of colleagues to choose from, it is easy for me to figure out who that was.

Screw you Google. Thank you DuckDuckGo.

John Collins

I have been writing about web technology and software development since 2001. I am the developer of the Alpha Framework for PHP, and the personal productivity app. I love open source, technology, and economics.