If you’re using Google as your only search engine, it’s time for you to search for a new search engine. You, like most people, have probably developed quite the Google habit over the years. It’s been the most commonly used search engine for nearly 20 years. While Google may seem to work extremely well for you, it’s likely coming at the cost of losing your privacy and losing an objective view of the information on the internet.
Reason #1: Google Tracks Your Searches
When you use Google, your search term gets linked to your device and Google stores that information. It then uses that information to target you with ads.
So even if you’re signed out, your Google data is still linked to your browser and your device, which could reveal your identity. Unfortunately you could easily believe that they are searching “privately” because they’re logged out. In these cases, Google can still theoretically link these searches to your identity.
If you use an Android device, “the Advertising ID is used to provide relevant advertising on Android devices, and can be managed in your device’s settings.”
This is another problem. Every Android device has a unique device identifier that Google uses to track ad viewing behavior. So your device’s unique identifiers could potentially undo any privacy protection measures you take.
Reason #2: Google Follows You To Other Websites with Ads and Analytics
Google doesn’t just run a search engine, it also operates one of the internet’s largest ad networks and analytics programs. This means that Google may track you with scripts and cookies within the ads that they host on other websites. It may also collect information about your browsing with Google Analytics.
The majority of Google’s profits come from advertising, and not directly from its search engine. Google’s search engine does play a major role though. It’s just one of many tools that the company uses to collect data from its users about their interests and browsing behavior. Google also provides Google Analytics which gives websites insight into who is visiting their sites and which pages are most popular. Any website that has Google Analytics installed is another touch point for Google to collect your data.
Read More: Data Privacy Concerns with Google
Reason #3: Google is a “General” Search Engine
Google is an awesome search engine for most searches. However, for finding certain types of content or scientific research data there are other much more effective search engines.
For example, if you want an answer to a complex equation, Wolfram Alpha is a better resource than Google. Wolfram Alpha delivers answers and systematic knowledge rather than a list of websites that may contain the answer you’re seeking.
If you are doing scientific research or research for a legal case, a more advanced search tool like LexisNexis or Microsoft Academic Search will help you find the information you’re looking for much faster. If you need to search PDF documents or scientific journals, a search tool that’s designed for research will be more effective.
Reason #4: Google is Most Vulnerable to Search Results Manipulation
Because Google is so popular and has the most users of any search engine, marketers are most concerned about having their sites rank highly on Google. The entire field of search engine optimization is based on manipulating websites and the sites that link to it to improve its search engine rankings. Google has the highest search volume of any search engine so it stands to give SEO professionals the biggest return on their effort.
While Google’s search algorithms are constantly advancing to prioritize high-quality websites and content, there are still ways that marketers try to game the system. This means that when you search with Google, you could be seeing a site that has manipulated the rankings and not the best website for your query.
Reason #5: Google Links Your Searches to Your Google Account
If you’re logged in to Google (and potentially even if you aren’t), your searches will be tracked and connected to your account. This lets Google maintain a data set specifically about your internet use and search history. This creates a vulnerability in the even Google is hacked that your browsing activity could be leaked.
Reason #6: Google Keeps You In a Filter Bubble
When you use Google, the results you see are determined by which websites you frequently visit, what you’ve searched for in the past, and what you’re most likely to click on. If you’ve frequently read conservative news sites and you search for a political issue, you’re more likely to get Google results from conservative news sources. This applies to almost any topic, if you visit websites that indicate to Google that you have a certain perspective, Google will show you more websites that reinforce your views.
Reason #7: Google Isolates You In Their Range of Products
It’s no coincidence that if you do a Google search for “cloud storage” or “online document” the first option Google shows is its own products – Google Drive and Google Docs. Google uses each of its products to learn more about its users. While this does help make some of their products more convenient, it also raises privacy concerns.
If you use Google as your search engine, use Gmail for your email, have a YouTube account and use other Google products the company has trapped you in it’s data collection system. If you want to search Google, you may be prompted to log in, but you aren’t required to do so. If you want to comment on a YouTube video, Google makes you log in. Information about the videos you watch on YouTube is very valuable for advertising purposes, and for targeting the embedded ads you see in the videos you watch.
Reason #8: Other Search Engines Have Better Privacy By Default
Google’s convenience is thanks to the amount of data it has about you and your content preferences. As far as privacy goes, Google gives users very little. Even if it has the best data security practices in the world to keep your data safe from hackers, the company at self can still theoretically view your browsing behavior.
Private search engines, which generally don’t track any data about you and your searches are better for anyone concerned with privacy. StartPage and Search Encrypt are two examples of private search engines that will help minimize tracking from your search engine. Neither of these search engines will use your search history to target you with ads anywhere on the internet. The ads you see above your search results will be based solely on your search term.
StartPage uses Google results, with additional privacy protection measures. It doesn’t track your IP address or any information about you. With StartPage you don’t have to worry about other users on your computer seeing what you’ve searched for in your browsing history.
Search Encrypt is similar to StartPage but returns results from a number of different sources. It uses encryption to keep your search terms private from anyone who may be monitoring your network or who may use your computer after you.
Reason #9: Google’s Influence Is Too Large
Since Google has around 90 percent of the global search market. As a result, the websites that Google’s algorithms prioritize are given a huge advantage over those that aren’t given high ranking. Most people start their internet browsing with a Google search, so Google acts as the doorway into the internet. If they aren’t giving fair exposure to the full range of information that’s available, they are greatly influencing the world’s perspectives.
If you buy into this model of giving your data to Google and then using the products your data is feeding, you are perpetuating this issue. You are expanding Google’s power to control the free flow of information online.
Reason #10: Google Offers Very Little Transparency
In January 2019, Google was fined $57 million in France for a lack of transparency into how their ad targeting works. Although Google informs its users what data they collect, there is very little understanding about the algorithms that determine which ads people see. This is a common trend across many of Google’s products, where people blindly consent to privacy statements that still don’t fully explain how a given user’s information is processed, stored and used.