In the 1980’s, the company name Xerox became a verb because of the machine’s ability to make paper copies. Everyone knew what you meant when you said, “Xerox it!” Today Google is an example of the same phenomenon. Just as people got carried away with xeroxing — remember copies of butt cheeks? — it’s time to consider whether googling everything is a good idea. It’s no surprise Google compromises our privacy by selling or sharing all the data it acquires about us. Here’s an article I found about what NOT to Google and why. Later I’ll share an option that offers privacy and anonymity.
THINGS YOU SHOULD NOT GOOGLE — By Mike Peterson
The entire breadth of recorded human knowledge is available to everyone with a solid Internet connection. That’s a boon for most of us, but it has a dark side, too. While we can google just about anything, there are plenty of things that we shouldn’t. From the gross or stress inducing to the possibly incriminating, here are the top things you should never type into your search bar.
INSECURITIES With the data collection tools available, a slew of methods figure out what you're insecure about. So it’s best to not provide any “dirt” on yourself. Avoid typing in anything you’re worried or insecure about like phobias, health issues or anything embarrassing too. Advertisers see this information as a goldmine — and you’ll find ads specifically tailored to those search results following you around the Internet.
ANYTHING SUSPICIOUS Avoid searching for anything suspicious or criminal — these queries come back to haunt you. If it’s not something you want the police to know you’ve searched, it’s not something you should be googling. A user who googled “pressure cooker bomb” and “backpack” was just curious, but the police still showed up after he made those queries on a work computer. A similar story played out after someone googled “insider trading” before buying stocks.
BIASES “Confirmation bias” is a real thing — a tendency to seek out information to support already established beliefs. Because of the way Google parses search queries, it only feeds you results that back up your original term — and those results are biased themselves. Instead of searching “Is cake cancer causing?” search for “Benefits and drawbacks of cake.”
CONSPIRACIES The Internet is a place where all of the world’s crackpot ideas, inaccurate information, and conspiracy theories spread like wildfire. You can easily get sucked into a vortex where one conspiracy theory — with no basis in facts or reality — leads to a thousand others.
SPOILERS If you’re an avid fan of a particular movie, novel, or TV show, avoid googling it until you’re finished it. Often, an important character’s death or other plot points show up in the search result previews — meaning you can see a spoiler accidentally.
TERMS There are a slew of disturbing, gross search terms out there. If you’ve been around the Internet long enough, you’ve probably heard a few like, "blue waffle." These images and videos are made specifically to shock you. Do yourself a favor and avoid them!
Curiosity leads to learning, and Internet research is a convenient part of that. Even when we’ve been cautioned about what NOT to do, we’re tempted by forbidden territory. For example, I don’t know what “blue waffle” is, and now I’m reluctant to google it! So what resource is available when curiosity strikes?
That question led me to Forbes’ website. It recommends DuckDuckGo, a highly rated search engine that offers privacy and anonymity. I downloaded the free app and I’m a convert. It took a moment to come up with a verb for searching with DuckDuckGo — I’m calling it, “quacking.” I felt safe enough to use DuckDuckGo to quack: “The truth behind Blue Waffle.” Here’s what I learned:
“There is no disease known as “Blue Waffle.” The rumor that it’s an STD is a bait-and-switch hoax!”
I’m glad I quacked the term rather than googling it. Google collects details about everything we’re interested in: travel, health, movies, brands, restaurants, music, politics, books, and it would have collected information about that search too!
I'm late to leave the Google party, but I'm relieved to know there are secure alternatives. If the concerns in this blog bother you give DuckDuckGo a try — or find another option that provides privacy and anonymity.
Forewarned is forearmed. We’ve been warned!
Sources: Forbes.com, iDropNews
Article: Written by Mike Peterson and edited liberally for this blog by me
Photo Credit: Bigtunaonline/Shutterstock