Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Safe Shopping with Google’s Privacy Tools




It’s the most wonderful time of the year: time to agonize over holiday gifts.But for me, holiday shopping has been transformed by the Internet. Like 106 million other Americans on Cyber Monday alone, I did much of my holiday shopping online. Less hunting for parking at the mall, more eggnog!

But my wife (Hi, Joyce!) shares my computer, so how can I find the perfect gift without ruining the surprise? And how can I keep my shopping and browsing information safe and secure? By using Google’s Privacy Tools, of course!

If I’m signed into my Google Account and have my Web History turned on, I get more personalized search results and can see my previous search terms. But I can also delete those gift-related searches in case my wife gets nosy. I can even pause my history so my search for ‘Hawaii vacation' isn’t ever recorded. (Joyce, if you’re reading this, that’s just an example.)

But that only helps hide my search terms; what if I want to cover the rest of my online tracks? To hide those shopping sites from curious eyes, I use Google Chrome’s Incognito mode, which keeps any websites I visit or downloads I make from being recorded in my browser’s history. Goodbye Williams-Sonoma.com!

When my wife opens that perfect gift, I want to get it all on tape and share the video with our family, but not the whole world wide web - so I use the YouTube Unlisted and Private video options. I can send a link of the video to our friends and family without all of YouTube and the Internet knowing how she liked her new Kinect.

Of course, I want to do all this browsing safely. To help keep my data safe, I look for the “https” and lock icon on my browser. Google offers industry-leading encryption, which help prevent my searches and email from being intercepted by a third party. And of course, I follow the FTC’s safe browsing tips so that I can be sure my credit card information isn’t hijacked but is actually going to Tiffany.com. (again, Joyce, this is merely illustrative...)

Truth be told, I have no idea what I’m going to buy Joyce this year - I usually wait for inspiration and/or panic to strike. But whatever I come up with, Google’s Privacy Tools will help keep it a surprise. That and wrapping paper.

For more information about these and other ways to control your Google experience, check out our Privacy Tools page or this recent article from Ars Technica. Happy shopping!

1 comment:

smita said...

Hi Will, thank you for posting this. I found this quite useful, as I am a newbie internet shopper. I have always wondered how my husband knew of the surprise holiday that I had booked on the internet which was a big secret. I didn't know something like history existed in the cyber world too.