Before Google, if you were curious about some weird sexual position or the dangers of sticking foreign objects in your body, you had to go to an older sibling or trustworthy classmate. This would result in either hilarious and unfulfilling sexual misadventures and /or a mortifying nickname that followed you all the way to college.
Google wasn’t the first search engine to take the human interaction out of that process though – it was just the best at finding the information you were looking for. And as long as you were sure to delete your search history afterwards, you could read up on any kind of messed up, degenerate behavior you wanted without another human soul ever knowing. But, as it turns out, Google records everything you enter into its search engine. That fateful night a few months back when you innocently Googled “pearl necklaces” — that’s now stored on Google’s servers, correlated with your IP address, and a pretty shocking amount of other personal information you probably don’t want anyone to know about.
However, they’re not just passively stalking you via your bizarre searches. If you use Google to help you navigate the Web, there’s a good chance they’ve installed a cookie onto your browser that logs every page you visit, every form you fill out and every conversation you have. Google sees it all and stores it for at least nine months. (Consumer advocate group Privacy International says nine months is the best case scenario. Even if you only use a few of Google’s free services, “the company retains a large quantity of information about that user, often for an unstated or indefinite length of time, without clear limitation on subsequent use.”)
Of course, Google is in the business of getting you what you’re looking for, and knowing everything about you makes it better at its job. When you type rim into your search window, Yahoo! might return a LeBron James dunking highlight reel or the Canadian telecommunication company Research In Motion (RIM), but … Google knows better. It remembers your pearl necklace inquisition, whether you’d like it to or not. In 2009, Google’s CEO Eric Schmidt warned users, “If you have something that you don’t want anyone to know, maybe you shouldn’t be doing it in the first place.” So, maybe it’s time to stop treating Google like a smarter, more trustworthy older sibling who has all the answers and more like a friend you trusted until you found the notebook where they track all of your bowel movements. No matter how much good advice they offer you, and how many times they claim the drawer full of hair they collected from your shower drain is “just in case,” you’ll never feel totally comfortable around them again.
That being said, there are a lot of ridiculous people out there you probably pass on the street daily, not realizing the crazy things they go home and Google at night themselves. For example, while you’re Googling those sexual positions you never quite got all the answers about, these demented do-it-yourselfers are looking for instructions for the following “make your own” projects:
- Make your own crossbow: 1500 people a day search for this. Forget about robots taking over the world – I am now highly concerned about the rising of the Google Crossbow Army.
- Make your own longbow: Do you think the 800 people a day trying to make longbows are allied with the crossbow makers? Or is there some epic war saga between the crossbows and longbows that I’ve never been informed about? Hollywood, get on that.
- Make your own natural cat repellent: I …. I don’t even know what this signifies.
- Make your own shoes: Either our economy is even worse than I thought, or Tom’s shoes are even too mainstream for hipsters now.
- Make your own superhero: Pretty sure the government’s already on this one. Captain America, anyone? And that was started in the 40’s. Not to mention Janga Fett’s Grand Army of the Republic.
- Make your own flash cards: Hey, Googlers – I can help with this one. Index cards and a sharpie. Write on them. Ta-da!
- And also, … Sock Worship.
Every day, approximately 109 people search Yahoo for “Sock Worship.” So, I wondered — is this a church? Some extremist cult worshipping the God of Cotton? Apparently, it is a form of foot fetish, whereby people just look at other people’s feet in white socks. They massage. They smell. They even lick them. I don’t get it, but sock worship is apparently a very real thing. (I don’t recommend Googling this.)
The moral of the story here is that Google is a vast jungle filled with all sorts of weird creatures, endless distractions, and the memory of VIKI from iRobot. Be careful which things you look at, because this jungle isn’t forgetting anything.
For instance, I went on this adorable-cute-little-woodland-creature Google Images searching bonanza about 2 years ago that resulted in hundreds of JPG’s and countless hours wasted going “Awwwww!!”. To this day, when I type in “little” on my Image search toolbar, “little cute fuzzy adorable animals I really want to pet” still pops up. (Yes, I apparently typed that exact phrase in my frenzy of woodland animal addiction).
Instead of whatever image I’m actually looking to search for nowadays, Google insists that I should watch:
- a porcupine eating a banana and getting the hiccups.
- Or this one, of an adorably cute hedgehog munching on a baby carrot!!
- Or a picture of adorable baby sea otters sleeping on top of each other!!!!!!
(…. case & point.)