According to this video (and this article), there are now services that can pinpoint exactly where a Google search is coming from, down to the exact address. While many of us have known that the search terms we enter in search engines aren’t exactly secret, there has always been the assumption (correctly?) that who is searching for something remains secret. Or at least wasn’t going to be shared with just anyone. Apparently, even that isn’t true anymore.
The ramifications are pretty significant. If you live in a house and not a big apartment building, your identity is pretty easy game with such a tool. Getting embarrassed by more or less targeted advertising (“We found from your searches that you are interested in naked teenagers wearing rabbit ears? Do WE have a deal for YOU!”) is almost the least worry (though if I got a call from the home business woman in the video clip, I’d be furious at having my privacy invaded, rather than show an interest in her stuff!) But there’s even worse possibilities – what if somebody finds our that you are looking for legal advice, or something similarly crucial to be kept private? Information about an illness, or depression for example?
At the moment, the searches seem to only allow tracking back from websites -> via search terms -> to the orignator of the query. But how long until the direction is reversible? Do we all have to become hackers and hide behind sophisticated software just to browse in peace?