How to Keep a Private Search History

by Guy Gardner

Every time you log onto the Internet and use a search engine to surf the Web, you may be allowing different groups to compile detailed information about what you look for online, which websites you log onto and when and how often you go to these sites. This information may be kept by those operating the search engines, it may be sold to a third party or it may be leaked online. Fortunately, you can take steps to keep a private search history.

Don't log into a search engine or other sites owned by the same company as the search engine you are using. These companies can match your searches with your logged-in identity. If you have to be logged into a site owned by a company that also runs the search engine you use, then use a separate browser to use the search engine. This will make it more difficult to match your searches to your identity.

Prohibit search engines from giving you cookies. Cookies are useful markers that allow websites to identify you, and even log you into some sites without having to sign in. Search engines can also use cookies to recognize you and document your searches. Using Internet Explorer, you can block certain cookies by going to "Internet options" and clicking the "Privacy tab" and then selecting the websites you want to block. Using Firefox, you can block certain cookies by going to "Options" and clicking on the "Privacy tab" and clicking "Exceptions." Select the websites you would like to prohibit from giving you cookies.

Change your IP address frequently. Search engines can match your searches to your identity by tracking your IP address and linking that to the searches you have performed. Your broadband provider gives you a dynamic IP address. Turn your modem off and leave it off for at least five minutes before turning it back on. When you log back onto the Internet, you will have a new IP address. Changing your IP address frequently makes it much more difficult for a search engine to match you to your searches.

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