From monitoring passwords and payment data, to mining email accounts and contacts, there are numerous tactics that internet search engines deploy to collect our information whether personally or at work. Their reason is to offer us a more personalised experience online. However, ‘personalised’ can become ‘intrusive’, and many of us have not knowingly opted in to have our information tracked. The good news is that we can protect our information – however, this means your business needs to start opting out.
Many internet users are unaware that they leave behind traces in their online searches through their IP address – particularly if they are logged into a search engine-owned account – or through cookies. Search engines can not only track what and how you search on the internet, and ads, images and videos you click on, but they can find your location, your IP address, and the type of device you used. They can mine your search engine-linked email account, your calendars and contacts and store your voice recordings. They will collect your business passwords and payment data by “offering to store them for future use.
To stop search engines tracking you and mining your data, you need a good user internet strategy. Here are my top six tips for protecting your business data online while using the internet effectively.
Run a privacy check-up through your search engine
Control the level of privacy you require for every search engine service you use by adjusting your privacy settings on each of your devices. Google, for instance, offers a Privacy Checker to help you understand what information it collects and so you can better adjust your privacy settings. Google also offers a dashboard that allows you to monitor your activity, so you can make further changes to your account.
Avoid signing into your search engine account
Try to browse the internet only when you are not signed into your search engine-provided email or account. While much of your information will not be tracked, keep in mind that the relevancy of your searches may take a hit. For many, that’s a small price to pay for the enhanced privacy they desire.
Delete your search history
In your internet options, click on the ‘delete cookies when exiting search engine’ option so that your browsing history is deleted each time you exit. Remember to actually exit the search engine to enable this deletion to take place. You can delete website searches manually by looking back through your browser history in your settings, and manually deleting search terms and pages that you don’t want your search engine to keep track of.
Adjust privacy settings in various apps from the search engines – or uninstall them
Major search engines can offer various apps for photos, videos and drives that can be downloaded onto handheld devices. If you download these apps, adjust the privacy settings on each of them for your required level of privacy – or uninstall them altogether.
Use alternative search engines
The simplest way to stop Google from tracking you is to discontinue using any service or platform related to Google. Use alternative search engines that don’t track your history or collect your information such as DuckDuckGo, Gibiru and Yippy. The disadvantage, however, is that the smaller search engines don’t have superior browsing capabilities.
Don’t give a search engine permission to store your business passwords or payment details.
The major search engines use software that stores your usernames and passwords for different websites – if you let them. You can disable this function very easily in your account, or just decline their offer to store your information for you. This prevents people from gaining access to all your information and accounts if your search engine account is compromised.
Davide Defendi is Head of Strategy at digital marketing agency SEO Shark, which has a 4.9/5 Google rating and an 8.8/10 Trustpilot rating.