By Ann Grove
Privacy When Logged On
If your browser is logged on to your Google account, Google by default is tracking your search history and other online activity in order to serve you targeted ads and create a richer user experience.
If desired, you can limit the information Google collects about you by updating your preferences. You can delete Google's history of your past searches and stop Google's tracking of future searches.
You should also consider pausing Google's access to places you go, your YouTube searches, the YouTube videos you watch, and other settings. These settings are found in the same place you pause Google's search tracking.
How do you know if a browser is logged on to Google? Go to www.google.com in each browser and see if your special Google toolbar is displayed at top right. It looks like this:
If your browser isn't logged on to Google, instead of your name or initial you'll see a Sign in box (usually blue).
Other search engines such as Bing also encourage you to log on. You should review privacy settings for each search tool.
Note: You can still use your browser's history to review recent search results and find websites you viewed.
Privacy Concerns Even when Logged Off
Even if you are not logged on, Google and other search engines can still uniquely identify your computer and build a profile on you.
To avoid leaving any tracks, use your browser's private browsing feature or better yet, especially if you open unknown websites, use a sandboxed (isolated) browser. If you accidentally download malware while surfing, you simply refresh the sandbox; this restores the sandbox to pristine condition and discards the malware. A friend introduced me to Sandboxie, a pay-if-you-like tool, and I use it for all research.
For more infomation on Sandboxie, read Sue Blizzard's post, Why Everyone Should Use a Sandboxed Browser.