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I don't know how much deleting your search history on Google will actually protect your privacy - but people claim it's best to do this before Google changes its policies on March 1st. So, I went ahead and did it, following these directions.

It sounds like "pausing my history" mean my Google searches won't be influenced by previous searches I did. To me that's good: I don't like living in a "reality bubble" where what I see is based on what someone thinks I want to see.
[UPDATE 2/22/2012] It is important to note that disabling Web History in your Google account will not prevent Google from gathering and storing this information and using it for internal purposes. Mor...
Ray Cromwell's profile photoNadja Kutz's profile photoDee Roytenberg's profile photoJohn Baez's profile photo
I've seen a lot of these posts, but I've not seen any evidence that Google actually does delete your search history, and that they don't just stop showing it to you.
As the Electronic Frontier Foundation says in the article above:

"Note that disabling Web History in your Google account will not prevent Google from gathering and storing this information and using it for internal purposes. It also does not change the fact that any information gathered and stored by Google could be sought by law enforcement. With Web History enabled, Google will keep these records indefinitely; with it disabled, they will be partially anonymized after 18 months, and certain kinds of uses, including sending you customized search results, will be prevented. If you want to do more to reduce the records Google keeps, the advice in EFF's Six Tips to Protect Your Search Privacy white paper remains relevant: "

For me it's worth disabling the web history just to avoid "customized search results" and the reality bubble effect. But other people probably like customized search results.
I haven't understood what these actions purport to protect users from (protecting them from having less boring ads? protecting users from having a better personalized search experience?)
I agree +John Baez. It's worth to avoid(reduce) "customized" search results and google news topics, for me anyway. My web history has been disabled for as long as I can remember.
That's a good question, +Dimitris Andreou. It seems hard to find out everything Google actually does with the information it collects on us... I haven't found out, anyway. And without knowing that, it's hard to answer your question.

However, since Google makes its money by knowing stuff about us, and I don't want to spend money simply because someone knows what I'll buy, I'd rather avoid Google knowing more about me than I choose to reveal by, e.g., typing information in comments like this.

For example: you make "boring ads" sounds like a bad thing. For me boring ads are good,
since I don't like ads, and it's easier to avoid paying attention to an ad if it's boring.
This should have enough information: (I'm trying to put more information there, but I'm not a layer)

By the way, you can make the ads less targeted by removing all demographic information here:

But it's important to realize that ads pay for a large part of all the free content we find on the web, so, while nobody generally "likes" ads, we must not at the same time forget original content creators - it's an ecosystem, from the growth of which everyone benefits (and more useful ads help in that direction)
"Since Google makes its money by knowing stuff about us, I'll prevent them from doing so while using the services they offer anyway." Google can't make services like Google+ unless they're making money.

I can sort of understand not wanting a "reality bubble", but, in reality (if you'll pardon the pun), the only reason you'll end up in one is because you don't choose search results "outside your bubble" to begin with. Personalized search shows you more of the results you click on. If you're in a bubble on Google, it's only because you chose to be in one. Never mind that you don't have to deny them an income to disable the bubble... just turn personalized search off.

I would much rather have results that I find useful. On the rare occasions I want something contrary to my usual tastes, it's one click to disable personalized results for that search or use a different search engine for that query.
And, as pointed out above, most of the other sites you frequent probably make most of their income off of Google's targetted ads as well.
+Devin Baillie wrote: "Google can't make services like Google+ unless they're making money."

That's true, but I don't feel any duty to help them: they seem to be doing just fine!

If I'd been smarter, I would have turned off personalized search already, because I don't like it. Thanks for pointing that out. I prefer to be confronted by a certain amount novel weird random stuff, and maintain some rough sense of what an "average person" sees on the internet.

But, I'll also keep my web history paused, since I feel no desire to support Google. I already have a grad student who's working there, and I post lots of interesting articles here - that's enough. :-)
+John Baez: The exact same argument also gets at why I have no qualms about using an ad-blocker.
+Chris Granade - Yes, the idea that we have some sort of quasi-patriotic duty to support advertising just because it has some good side-effects has never resonated with me. The big companies are mainly motivated by self-interest in their dealings with me, so that's how I'll be with them. There's no shortage of suckers who buy junk based on ads, and there never will be.

You just reminded me to install AdBlocker Plus on my office computer:

And by the way, maybe I wasn't being such an idiot not to turn off "personalized search". Here in Singapore there seems to be no way to control that on Google... it's a bit confusing, but a lot of things seem to work a bit differently here.
+John Baez I completely agree, nobody should feel 'obliged' to support ads. It's the ads themselves that should be better, less spammy, more interesting. Ideally I would only see ads that are relevant, interesting and timely enough to make me say, 'hey, i was looking for this, thanks for putting this in front of me!'. Otherwise, it's just wasted space. Nobody should click on bad/irrelevant ads! (Again, ideally nobody would be seeing such ads, but it's a hard problem to solve)
+John Baez, the twist is that the average user is the one with customized results, so the unpersonalized results might get less and less representative of what it's commonly seen as more data is collected about users.

It's going to be tricky.
There's a double edged sword with ad quality though. If you only want to see relevant ads, Google needs to have more history about what you're interested in. And in fact, I think this is generally true, Google shows less ads/more target ads the more it knows.

Honesty, if you want to escape a filter bubble, the best way to do it is to use Chrome and Incognito windows for search.
Google has so far offered me ads which I do hold an interest in, however, once I have bought that RAM I do not wish to continue seeing it advertised on every page I visit.

I will remove my history, not because I fear Google but because caution is a good idea.
+Ray Cromwell - right. Personally I like irrelevant ads, because I don't like ads and they're easier to ignore if they're irrelevant. I'd be happiest if they were all for dog food, since I don't have a dog.
Heh, +John Baez , I hate irrelevant ads, because they totally distract me! I look at them and say, why the hell would anyone want that? What a bunch of crap? What is the world coming to that people are selling and buying that horrible stuff? Not that the supposedly relevant ads are much better, because, really, they aren't relevant, and are usually also for crap. But at least I can ignore them more easily, because I already know all about them, and have dealt with my annoyance at their existence already. But when they show me car ads for Cadillacs (yesterday) or dead pigs (a couple of days ago) or soft-core porn "dating ads" or "video games" with half naked women (all the time), it really makes me waste a stupid amount of time having to process it all and can't be ignored.
I should say that, as Seth Godin points out, a truly relevant ad is one which you are grateful to see. And it's possible, just not likely, given the fact that the majority of companies produce crap.
Of course I prefer no ads to irrelevant ads. About the only time I'm grateful to see an ad is when I've made my mind up to buy a product of a given type and want to compare lots of products of that type. But even then what I really prefer is unbiased product information and reviews, not ads.
I have my browser set to delete all my tracks when I close it down, and I don't surf any sites I don't want Google to know about when I'm logged in. I have Ad-Block Plus and other things installed so I never see very many ads in the first place. I have the "Tell websites I don't want to be tracked" check box checked (although I can't whether it makes a great deal of difference or not).

If I wanted Google, or any other site, to know what I was interested in I would tell them. I don't, therefore they don't get to know - or at least to the level I can prevent them.
speaking of getting rid of that RAM ads when you've already bought them, or any other targeted ads for that matter, I'd like to mention Do Not Track Plus. I've been using for a few weeks and it works quite well, blocking even those +1 and FB buttons that seem to be on every single page on the internet (without actually breaking them!)
You can use the Ads Preference Manager ( to change what you see or opt out. Keep in mind, stuff like Do Not Track and disabling cookies won't stop Google from searching up ads on its own properties.

I'm curious though if the people complaining about ads would pay a fee, like $1/mo for search engine usage instead?
on the german site: the option to remove the google history is announced (Gesamtes Webprotokoll entfernen) to be possible on the website (thats also whats on the EFF site), but on that website there is no button with "Gesamtes Webprotokoll entfernen" but only a button for "webprotokoll aktivieren" (activate protocoll). Do I have to activate something before I can delete it? Does someone know?
I couldnt find a place on googleworld (at least not within a decent time) where there was more on that issue. This is a bit annoying.

For more googledissidential discussions:
+Nadja Kutz - Sorry, you're living in a different reality bubble than I am, so I can't help you too much! What to do about Google if you live in the English-language reality bubble is nicely described on the webpage I linked to in this post. But the German-language reality bubble sounds a bit different.

(I'm actually living in the Singapore bubble right now, which differs in some funny ways from the American bubble. The annoying thing about these bubbles is that you only find out you're in one when you carefully compare notes with other people.)
Interesting: when I go to the history page intending to clear the history, I get a suggestion to turn the history on. Which means, I guess, that either I never turned it on in the fist place, or turned it off some time ago and forgot about it. Yet, the browser history (of pages visited, including google searches) still shows, but I guess it's a different thing.
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