Before you start using any online method to grow your business – whether that be blogs, directories, social networking, advertising or any other method – you MUST understand how your activities online are being tracked so that you can control to which accounts your activities are being linked.
Bear with me because this is a very important concept that all Internet users really need to understand and absolutely critical to those who are using the Internet to promote their business, non-profit, personal interests or any worthy cause.
There is no way to know how many sites are in collusion to track your activities across the Net. If you’re very observant you’ll see new linkage between sites every day. What this means is that you must understand and learn to protect and differentiate between actions you take for yourself, those others who may use your computer or log-in information have taken, and what you do for clients or businesses.
All of the major Internet sites including search engines, ecommerce, news, business, social networking and everywhere else you visit online is tracking what you do and attributing those actions to a specific profile. They assume – often incorrectly – that whoever visits a site is the person who was last logged into any other site they collect data from. In other words:
They assume that if your user information OR your computer were logged in that YOU are the CURRENT user! This can be true EVEN IF YOU LOGGED OFF!!!
If you plan to be active online and especially if you are going to be doing client work you absolutely must understand and control the above behavior. If you don’t, at a minimum you will be very embarrassed. You’re highly likely to lose clients. And you may end up endangering everyone you interact with online.
What am I talking about? You have got to understand all this stuff so you can keep your online activities separate! (And those of anyone else who uses your computer(s) or any computer you have ever used!) First you have to know WHY that is important:
- Everything you do online is tracked
- Your activities end up in various databases that are accessible to others
- Sites often have partner sites that share these cookies and assume the person using the computer NOW is the last person who was logged into any partner site
- Some sites add what you’re doing to their history databases EVEN IF YOU LOGGED OUT!
The above behaviors can result in these serious issues for you:
- YOUR searches can end up in history files belong to YOUR CLIENTS
- Posts you make online can be attributed to someone else
- Someone else’s posts may be attributed to you
- New accounts you create may be associated with other unrelated accounts
- Correcting these issues can be time-consuming and may not even be possible
If you have multiple clients these issues can be particularly problematic. They can reveal personal information and research you have done for one client to another. Searches you do for friends, family or other clients may be visible to clients even if you logged out of whatever you were working on for them.
The first time you run into this problem is likely to be because of a Google site. According to Google’s Privacy FAQ for Google Web History:
“Web History saves information about your web activity, including pages you visit and searches on Google.”
That is actually not true. If you use my computer - even if you log out – if I do not log into anything Google after you use it, their system assumes what I am doing is YOU doing it!
Everything someone who does not sign into anything Google does is attributed to the last Google login used on that computer
Have you ever let someone check their Webmail from your computer? If they’re using gmail and you don’t use anything Google, Google may start tracking you as though you were them! (And you can’t always tell what email addresses are using gmail. Domains can be set up to use gmail so the address appears to be @anyotherdomain name and actually be on gmail!).
While you can remove history from what you see you can NOT remove it from Google’s database! Any data that they have collected – whether valid or garbage – has permanently been connected to you. Because of the way this data is being collected it is invalid and corrupted. Unfortunately, they don’t really care – but you should.
There is no easy way to control these issues; however, we will share methods we use to prevent such challenges in new posts soon to come starting with how Google Web History works.
- Official Information on Google Web History
- Google History: Cool or …?
- How to Remove Your Google History – useful if you accidentally get searches in the wrong account
- How to Delete Google Search History – another post on removing Google History
- How to Delete Yahoo Search History – removing Yahoo Search history saved by Autocomplete
- How to Turn Off Internet Explorer AutoComplete Feature
- Google Web History Opportunities – humor – after the above we can all use some, right?
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