My Thoughts on Google Web History

So last week, Google replaced its “search history” feature with an updated one it calls “Google Web History“. It previously stored a dated list of all the searches you did on their site while logged into your Google account, but if you have the Google Toolbar installed (and the PageRank feature enabled), it will now show you a searchable archive of every website you visit. So, if you remember visiting a site several months ago, but can’t think of the name or URL, you could do a search across your web history to bring up results from just the pages you’ve visited, giving you a pretty good shot at finding it again. A lot of bloggers immediately cried foul at this new feature, saying web history is an invasion of privacy

There are a few things I have to say about this:

  1. This feature is opt-in — you need to enable web history in your Google account, install the Google Toolbar, and enable the PageRank feature in it. So, it’s completely your choice. No one is forcing it on you.
  2. This is key — this information is being collected by Google anyway. They’re just giving you access to data they already have for marketing purposes.
  3. Your internet provider has access to a lot more data about you than Google, and is probably a lot more likely to sell it or give it to Feds.

You have a couple of options here. One, complain about a “breach of privacy” now that you know some more facts, or two, realize that if this info is being collected anyway, it’s better for you to have access to it than not. This is really useful and meaningful data that tells a lot about where your attention is and if there are other sites out that might be of interest to you.

So, I say embrace it. I trust Google more than MSN, Yahoo, or any other search engine out there. At least they don’t pretend that they’re not collecting this information, because I guarantee you they are.