You can now download your entire Google search history to your computer. Cool feature? That’s what I thought at first. And then I realised there were dangerous things in my search history — things way worse than my taste in porn.
I’m not talking about the embarrassing fact that I always start Pandora Radio by typing “Pandora” into Google — I guess I don’t use bookmarks — or the names of all the people I’ve stalked through the web. I’m talking about the subject lines of my private emails. Hints about the stories I’m secretly working on. My tastes in all kinds of things other than porn. My own exact street address, culled from all the times I’ve searched for directions on Google Maps.
Now just think about all the things you might have searched for over the years.
Do you want a copy of that sitting on your computer? What use might you ever have for that information? Are you really planning to reminisce someday by digging through an avalanche of queries? Or do you think you’ll need an alibi for a crime? I suppose there are worse things sitting on my computer, but they’re not quite the same clearly marked treasure trove of insight into my entire life.
Clearly, someone at Google knows how dangerous this information can be, which is why they created the message you can read above. “It’s not the usual yada yada,” indeed. If you’re going to download it, keep it safe. If you’re willing to trust Google with this information, you should at least do as the company advises and set up two-factor authentication for some beefed up security.
Or, you could just delete the data. To their credit, Google makes it pretty easy. Just know that you’ll miss out on some enhanced search results—and you might cripple your Google Now virtual assistant in the process.