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My Search History (Beta)
Remember what you saw on Google, no matter where you are

 7:55 pm on Apr 20, 2005 (gmt 0)


My Search History lets you easily view and manage your search history from any computer. This feature of Google web search enables you to find information you thought you lost. And over time, you'll see an increasing number of relevance indicators in your search results that help you find the information you want

tip from [battellemedia.com...]

and more from Reuters: [reuters.com...]



 4:03 am on Apr 21, 2005 (gmt 0)

We will not disclose this information to other companies or individuals, except in the limited circumstances

This means:

We will not disclose this information to other companies or individuals unless the offer is good.


 4:05 am on Apr 21, 2005 (gmt 0)

However, as is common practice in the industry, Google maintains a separate logs system for auditing purposes and to help us improve the quality of our services for users

Sounds like they are just keeping log files to me, but brandish the pitchforks if you wish.


 4:29 am on Apr 21, 2005 (gmt 0)

"Sounds like they are just keeping log files to me, but brandish the pitchforks if you wish."

actually sounds like a backup system of whatever you deleted, but don't worry; Google says that they're good.

Wake up people!


 5:07 am on Apr 21, 2005 (gmt 0)

Ever find what you're looking for with Google, then promptly forget what you found?

Can't say that I have. And from the topics I see around here not too many other people are forgetful either.;)

It's an interesting feature. But now I'm signed into G, and before I walk away for a break I'll have to sign out. What else prevents my mail and other potential personal information from being available to whomever should happen by if I don't sign out? I'm not all that thrilled with having to log in and out of something that has become such a convenient appliance. Most days I'll have multiple G tabs open - news, search. I prefer to log in and out of mail as needed. That means that essentially I'll be running logged out most of the time - and therefore unable to take advantage - even if I have promptly forgotten what I had found.

Import Export

 5:16 am on Apr 21, 2005 (gmt 0)

"Do No Evil" was never a priority from any of the investors and others actually running this show for the past few years...


 5:31 am on Apr 21, 2005 (gmt 0)

JC, I'm with you on the email analogy, but the problem that I have is more related to documentation of policies and keeping them updated and ensuring compliance, with what can be considered non-public personal data.

The search industry has less compliance (if any) regulations than say the credit / financial industry. Both the industries have rogue employees... Both the industries use and abuse the data collected.

Like the no-fly list, I'm sure there is going to be some collateral damage here...


 5:54 am on Apr 21, 2005 (gmt 0)

Did you notice, G is able to track each and every search, and subsequent clicks, even without having a tracking script in its URLs. This is for all those who were doubting whether G can track clicks, just via javascript. (o is it something else?)

So basically they already have all this data for last 5 years, why do need accounts for? ;)


 6:31 am on Apr 21, 2005 (gmt 0)

Did you notice, G is able to track each and every search, and subsequent clicks, even without having a tracking script in its URLs.

It was the first thing I noticed too. They do not need tracking URLs to see which item in the SERPs is clicked. Or maybe it is because I am running the toolbar?


 6:51 am on Apr 21, 2005 (gmt 0)

Yeah, this may turn into a big "privacy" issue.

I hope not, but I'll be curious, icedout.
- Ask Jeeves lets you save previous searches: [sp.ask.com...]
- Yahoo lets you access saved search results: [mysearch.yahoo.com...] and [webmasterworld.com...]
- Eurekster remembers your searches and shares them with friends you choose: [home.eurekster.com...]
- A9 saves your searches by default: [a9.com...]


 6:52 am on Apr 21, 2005 (gmt 0)

From the Google Privacy Centre ...
We do not rent or sell your personally identifying information to other companies or individuals, unless we have your consent. We may share such information in any of the following limited circumstances:

* We have your consent.

* We provide such information to trusted businesses or persons for the sole purpose of processing personally identifying information on our behalf. When this is done, it is subject to agreements that oblige those parties to process such information only on our instructions and in compliance with this Privacy Policy and appropriate confidentiality and security measures.

* We conclude that we are required by law or have a good faith belief that access, preservation or disclosure of such information is reasonably necessary to protect the rights, property or safety of Google, its users or the public.

Perhaps it's just me but all of this makes me a bit nervous. Remember the guy who got jailed for selling AOL lists?


 7:14 am on Apr 21, 2005 (gmt 0)

BeeDeeDubbleU, without that phrase I don't think we could enlist a trusted company to print and mail checks to AdSense publishers, for example, even if they signed a confidentiality agreement?

But by all means, please compare our privacy policy to other search engines. Yahoo mentions
We provide the information to trusted partners who work on behalf of or with Yahoo! under confidentiality agreements. These companies may use your personal information to help Yahoo! communicate with you about offers from Yahoo! and our marketing partners.
for example, which sounds about the same except that Yahoo allows marketing partners. Then Yahoo also allows third-party cookies, as well according to [privacy.yahoo.com...]
so that surfers can be cookied on Yahoo for third parties to track.

Similar language from Ask Jeeves:
Agents and contractors who have access to personally identifiable information collected through the site are required to protect this information in a manner that is consistent with this policy.

And similar language from MSN:
We occasionally hire other companies to provide limited services on our behalf, such as handling the processing and delivery of mailings, providing customer support, processing transactions, or performing statistical analysis of our services. We will only provide those companies the personal information they need to deliver the service. They are required to maintain the confidentiality of your information and are prohibited from using that information for any other purpose.

I'm an engineer, so I prefer to stay away from legal stuff, but when you compare privacy policies across a lot of companies, I believe our privacy policy stacks up well. :)

[edited by: GoogleGuy at 7:22 am (utc) on April 21, 2005]


 7:20 am on Apr 21, 2005 (gmt 0)

Nice tool Google!

How many times have you forgotten to bookmark a page and spent time searching google trying to find that same site but forgotten the keywords you used to find the site in the first place.

A couple of questions:

Will google start to display adwords in my search history screen based on my general intrests?

Will we be able to save the history of the search results not just the keywords? given the 1GB storage it shouldn't be difficult. A feature that could automatically save the top 5 pages would be great.

This is another step in the direction of understanding and learning Google users.


 7:37 am on Apr 21, 2005 (gmt 0)

Glad you like it, lasko! The answers to your questions are
- I don't know. I'll have to ask someone. :)
- I think so. I just tried it with a search of a word that was on a page, and it returned the correct page.

Searching the history of pages you visited is a really nice feature--more useful than just the queries you did, in my opinion. It's remind me of the Vannevar Bush article of As We May Think and being able to leave an information trail using a "memex" as he called it. Here's a pointer to his 1945 (!) paper:

The other nice feature in my mind is that you can use your Google account on different computers (home, work, laptop, wherever) and carry your search history with you.


 7:42 am on Apr 21, 2005 (gmt 0)

Googleguy, we may be getting a bit off topic here but it's not just Google's Privacy Policy that makes me nervous. I just happen to believe that companies like yours, Microsoft and Yahoo are now storing an inordinate amount of very personal information about individuals, to an extent that would have been inconceivable ten years ago.

... or have a good faith belief that access, preservation or disclosure of such information is reasonably necessary to protect the rights, property or safety of Google, its users or the public.

Doesn't that mean that you can access this information, preserve this information or disclose this information in just about about any circumstances? I am not suggesting that you will but doesn't it suggest that you can?


 7:47 am on Apr 21, 2005 (gmt 0)

P.S. I'm heading to bed, but it's an excellent paper--highly recommended. Section 6 is where it really starts to get interesting, and section 7 is the best in my opinion.

Consider a future device for individual use, which is a sort of mechanized private file and library. It needs a name, and to coin one at random, ``memex'' will do. A memex is a device in which an individual stores all his books, records, and communications, and which is mechanized so that it may be consulted with exceeding speed and flexibility. It is an enlarged intimate supplement to his memory.
When the user is building a trail, he names it, inserts the name in his code book, and taps it out on his keyboard. Before him are the two items to be joined, projected onto adjacent viewing positions. ... Thereafter, at any time, when one of these items is in view, the other can be instantly recalled merely by tapping a button below the corresponding code space. ... It is exactly as though the physical items had been gathered together to form a new book. It is more than this, for any item can be joined into numerous trails. ... Thus he builds a trail of his interest through the maze of materials available to him.

You have to read the full article to get the whole impact though.


 7:50 am on Apr 21, 2005 (gmt 0)

I think it is a step in the right direction. I have long wanted a se subscription section where I could pay for enhanced tools and performance.

I would like to be able to:

- ban different domains from ever showing up in the results.
- set modes were g would "guess" what I was searching for based on my history. (am I a shopper, a news hound, or am I primarily a info searcher?).
- tracking my history and starting to "TiVo like" offer search suggestions.
- integrated kw tracking like "alerts".
- history check of kw's I follow over time.


 8:02 am on Apr 21, 2005 (gmt 0)

BeeDeeDubbleU, I think similar language appears in other privacy policies, e.g.
Microsoft may access and/or disclose your personal information if required to do so by law or in the good faith belief that such action is necessary to: (a) conform to the edicts of the law or comply with legal process served on Microsoft or the site; (b) protect and defend the rights or property of Microsoft, including its MSN family of Web sites; or (c) act in urgent circumstances to protect the personal safety of users of MSN services or members of the public.

but again I'm no lawyer, just an engineer. In my experience, Googlers tend to be aware of privacy issues and very pro-privacy.

Brett, I sent the history folks a pointer to this thread, so I'm sure they'll see your wishlist first thing tomorrow morning. :)


 8:18 am on Apr 21, 2005 (gmt 0)

Brett -- I'd be all for it, if Google offered such services as a value add and I paid for them, with the assurance that my data would not be used for any other purpose. PLEASE .. no more "free features".

GoogleGuy -- While I'm sure the privacy policies of the other sites are just as weak as Google's (if not weaker), they're not an issue for me. None of those sites take my money or send me checks. Google being the market and opinion leader tends to get more scrutiny. That is the price to be paid.

Google needs to get its PR folks in proactive gear IMO..

A feature about the data that google has and what it does to protect it from abuse might have been a better lead into this and some of the other stuff thats been getting some flack. We're all happy to read about the lava lamps and Colin Powell walking into laundry rooms... but ....

After all, I'm sure there are perfectly legitimate reasons for collecting all this data .. ;)


 8:25 am on Apr 21, 2005 (gmt 0)

Points well taken, shri.


 8:34 am on Apr 21, 2005 (gmt 0)

I was thinking about the history of a page that I had viewed. Did the ranking change? Did the title change? You might as well show me the true PR of that page while were at it...


 8:36 am on Apr 21, 2005 (gmt 0)

Google being the market and opinion leader tends to get more scrutiny. That is the price to be paid.

True. :)

I always wonder why companies must retain their hold on this information anyway. Isn't there massive goodwill to be obtained by introducing systems that are somehow encrypted so that the information is NOT available to anyone apart from the user, not now, not tomorrow not ever? I don't know enough about this to know if it is possible but wouldn't it be great if the Privacy Policy (for a change) read something like ...

The information we store about you is encrypted, stored and linked in such a way that it is only available to you and it cannot be accessed by anyone other than you. Information more than N months old will be deleted for evermore unless you respond to our renewal of service requests.

Now put's on cynical hat ...

In any case, shouldn't we be able to find the information we want on Google without this tool? ;)


 8:45 am on Apr 21, 2005 (gmt 0)

BeeDeeDubbleU, if that were the privacy policy (and don't get me wrong--I like that way of looking at things a lot), then we wouldn't be able to use log information to detect and undo things like click fraud, for example.

Okay, I'm off to bed. Catch you later..


 8:53 am on Apr 21, 2005 (gmt 0)

Almost 10am here but G'night Googleguy.

However, I don't understand? What has click fraud got to do with the information you want to store about people's surfing habits?


 9:59 am on Apr 21, 2005 (gmt 0)

I'm not sure if this has been mentioned or not, but are there plans to show what type of search was performed? Eg. web, images, groups, etc.

Edit: Just thought that it would be good if the above concept was extended to regional and local searches - at the moment regional searches (eg. google.co.uk) don't seem to be recorded at all.


 11:46 am on Apr 21, 2005 (gmt 0)

I think Brett is right on the money in wanting to see personalized search results instead of having a storage for fluff found in SERPs half a year ago (browser bookmarks already do the job of storing info on useful sites).

And personalization would mean teaching the algo of likes and dislikes on the search results.

Once you start offering personalized search for each user, the possibilities for targeted advertising are endless. (however, knowing users search history is a nice start this way and I bet G has long-range plans on this already).

G could profile every user based on the preferred types of search results and sell adwords space based on those profiles in addition to the search keywords used.

The current situation, where search engines customize the results based on geo-location, btw, does not work.

Too many of us use broadband accelerator proxies (servers that may reside in other countries, especially if you use such service in Europe), for example.

Also, many are looking for the best information, wherever it may be based, and automatic geotargeting of search results works mostly against that goal.


 12:56 pm on Apr 21, 2005 (gmt 0)

Wow, there's so much to comment on in this thread that i'll have to do it telegram style in order to get some work done today ;)

Privacy: That's the price you pay for a free service, sort of. You give some and get some. Your whereabouts are hard currency. That said, in my experience the behaviour of any one individual person is not really interesting at all, it's the aggregate figures that are useful.

Memex: That article is a true classic! Lots of food for thought and inspiration in that one. Must re-read it again soon. But: The memex device isn't really important, it's the personal "view" that is, which brings me to:

All the other sites: I visit many sites, so a truely universally usable memex thingy would be "neutral" in that it would integrate content from many independent (even competing) sources. Like desktop search does with web, email, docs, but more pervasive than that. Like the visions from the Hailstorm / MS passport thingy, essentially - only turned 180 degrees. Which could bring me back to "privacy" but in stead it brings me to:

The "My" that is not mine: All the "My whatever" sites are not really mine. Of course it's something that i use and something that i shape, but i can't take any of it with me. Ie. "My Yahoo" only works on Y! properties, Passport only works on MS soil, "My Google" will only work with Google. So, effectively, "My Yahoo" is not my personal interface to (or, version of) Yahoo, it's Yahoo's limited interface to (or, version of) me, aka. "Yahoo's me". And the same goes for the rest. None of it is really mine, as if it were i would have access to these things even if i was not on that particular property. It would follow me whereever i took it with me (as the memex). Which brings me to:

Walled gardens: Which is the thing that most of these login systems lead to. You have a lot of relevant and often necessary things which you can access this-place-or-that using this-or-that login. You don't have it all at one place, in stead you find yourself increasingly logging in and logging out; getting, setting, resetting and forgetting passwords as no single place can ever cover all needs. Which brings me to:

Feeds, RSS, XML: Somebody out there has already made a RSS thingy for Search History. A9's got the OpenSearch format. Me? I would like to have my own memex. A real memex. One with some stuff from Google, some stuff from Y!, other sites, news sources, several independent email accounts, PM's and IM's, my own document archives, some archives of peers, the library, various encyclopedias, a whole lot of different kinds of tables, tools, personal stuff, and whatever.

So, can i take it with me?
Even at places where there's no internet connection, and/or no Google?

Just a few thoughts for future development... Or, rant as it is.


 2:34 pm on Apr 21, 2005 (gmt 0)

I don't envy the fact that you have to defend this. Maybe you truly believe in this, maybe you have to defend it, much like a PR guy does. This is a privacy issue. Having a privacy policy means almost nothing, here's why: [news.google.com...] (Not to mention that 2 years from now Google quietly can change the privacy policy and barely anyone would notice). All those companies had great rules and regulations in place, yet they lost the tape or sold to Nigerian scammers.

If it's on tape, or worse, online it can be stolen, misplaced or hacked. Google has over 3000 employees and one day it might have 10,000+. Can you vouch for all of them? No one can. I don't want someone to know what I read or where I go. All it takes is a few keystrokes and G employee number 3523 knows that a married John Doe searched for "hot teens" 4 years ago.

I doubt any of us would. The worse part (cause I realize the rest is voluntary), is the fact that Google would still keep the "log" even after you delete it. That is horrible.

To the rest of the posters here: try to picture Bill Gates annoucing this at a conference. What would your reaction be?


 3:10 pm on Apr 21, 2005 (gmt 0)

Thought provoking post Walkman. Well done!

I believe that we are right to be concerned about these issues, and by this I don't mean this one in particular. I mean generally.


 3:56 pm on Apr 21, 2005 (gmt 0)

It's a strange world. This new My Search History is not a privacy issue, in my opinion. That's because it's very obvious to anyone using it that Google is keeping all of this info.

The privacy issue to me is that Google is keeping the same information even if you don't opt-in to My Search History. The only thing they don't have is a record of what sites you clicked on -- Google doesn't see much need for this information.

Google has been keeping your search term information for at least five years. How else can they come up with information like this:


"The data below shows some of the misspellings detected by our spelling correction system for the query [ britney spears ], and the count of how many different users spelled her name that way. Each of these variations was entered by at least two different unique users within a three month period, and was corrected to [ britney spears ] by our spelling correction system (data for the correctly spelled query is shown for comparison)."

Hot teen searches or Britney searches, Google's got your number. Even after deleting your Google cookie constantly, if you use cable broadband in the U.S. your IP address is sticking with you for months at a time.

Google is the leader in search. If Google suddenly became more reasonable with the data they collect, I'm sure that Yahoo and MSN and Ask Jeeves would also. Google started over five years ago with an immortal cookie with a unique ID in it, and lied about it by claiming that it was needed to set your preferences. Everyone agreed at the time that "Google is so cool." This was the signal for every other engine that they could get away with anything at all by way of data collection.

It's a strange world when Matt Drudge screams, "Google knows what you searched last night!" and bases this on an Associated Press piece that doesn't even go into the data Google has been collecting for five years. Drudge gets it right for the wrong reason. The significance of My Search History is not that Google is introducing something that some will find useful. The significance is that it will raise awareness of something that should have been an issue five years ago.

I recall arguing on WebmasterWorld about three or four years ago with posters who claimed, with no justification whatsoever, that Google would be overwhelmed by all that data, so they couldn't possibly be collecting it all.

Some of us quickly crushed that argument by using some basic compression ratios and a calculator. Since then, Gmail with 2 gigs has dented that argument too. Now this latest History feature will kill that argument forever. The level of general awareness about the data collection done by all search engines will rise because of this.

That's the strange reason why this new Google feature is a good thing.


 4:06 pm on Apr 21, 2005 (gmt 0)

On the other hand, walkman, Google doesn't know a user's identity in general, and we only see info that you send to Google. ISPs have much more information (including contact info and credit card numbers) than any search engine does. Having worked at Google for several years, I'm proud of the amount of respect we have for our users' privacy. I do think it's important that we don't allow third-party cookies, for example.

(Got a couple hours of meetings, but I'll check back later today.)


 4:31 pm on Apr 21, 2005 (gmt 0)

try to picture Bill Gates annoucing this at a conference. What would your reaction be

Probably: "huh, they're taking a lesson from Ask too. Wonder what happens if I slide this bar over here..."

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