The study found that 86% of people use a Google search engine to find out more information about another. Almost a third of US adults have searched a politician, with over half stating that this influenced their voting decision. 42% of people have searched someone before conducting business with them, and 43% of people have searched a romantic interest (potential date, significant other, ex-boyfriend/girlfriend.)
While it may be obvious to some that having a good online presence is crucial to maintaining a positive digital identity, the results of this study enforce this for those who may need a gentle reminder. Interestingly, when talk of Google searches and digital identity arises, most of the focus is placed on the person that is being searched, rather than the person who is doing the searching. This is evident in this recent Harris Interactive study.
This is understandable, of course. But for the sake of argument, what of the digital identity of the person who is doing the searching? Buzzfeed posted an article outlining “Why Google, not Facebook, knows your darkest secrets.” It argues that while Facebook “presents a mile-high view of your online social history, which while unsettling in sheer size and scope, is selective and containable, ” Google “servers are a repository of the developed world’s darkest and most heartbreaking secrets, a vast closet lined with millions of digital skeletons that, should they escape, would spare nobody.”
In 2006, a group of researchers got a hold of a large database of search logs released by AOL. Though the month-long logs from the ~650, 000 users were made anonymous, identities were soon discovered with ease; their private search queries made public. All of sudden, online identities were undesirably linked to offline identities. And as much as we’d like to believe this tasteless move by AOL is as retired a concept as Walkmans, this digital age has proved that aspiring towards anonymity in our ever-increasingly connected world is, while ideal, simply unrealistic.
Are you aware that Google is tracking you through all its available services? Do you know how to erase your digital path? Have you thought about what your search history may reveal about you?
We know of the increasing concerns of privacy and security in social networks. Why should we treat search engines like Google any different? If complete control and privacy is what we seek, perhaps Google is not the place to begin our search.