Google Web History, which tracks all your past searches so you can re-find something you already searched for, has now added Google Blogsearch, bringing the total number of services they cover to ten:
The history for Blog Search doesn’t go back far, if at all, since I have no indexed Blog queries among all my 18,000+ searches that Web History has saved.
I was looking at my personal search Trends in Web History, and take a look at the bar graphs:
Can you believe that? I’m working just as much at 2 am as I am the entire rest of the day! And half the time, I get four or five hours of sleep? And my only real break comes around 9pm, probably when me favorite shows are on?
Oy. I wonder what everyone else’s personal trends are like. If you want, link to screenshots of them in the comments or email them to me, and we can compare them here.
UPDATE: Two readers have sent in their Web Trends. Take a look:
Google put together this YouTube video explaining many of its privacy policies. The video’s got some nice whiteboard-y goodness:
You can see how their new privacy policies erase only a portion of your IP, but all of your cookie ID. While the video claims the log contains no personal information, it does not address the fact that your search query may contain personal or embarassing information.
Google Korea plans to add an age-verification system to its search engine later this year, in order to prevent users under 19 from finding adult-themed websites in their search results. Users who type in any of 700 words (supplied by the government) will be asked to enter their name and national resident registration number, which will be compared against a national database to determine if the person is over 19 years of age.
Here’s the odd thing: The article only says “Google Korea”, not Google South Korea or Google North Korea. You’d expect to hear stories like this coming from North Korea, but all indications are that this is being done in South Korea (the article does mention Seoul, and Google doesn’t have a search engine for North Korea). This isn’t censorship, and it makes perfect sense to put in extra effort to keep minors away from porn, but…
Effective with this new system, everyone who verifies their age will have their search history potentially linked to their name and national registration number. Nothing has been said as to whether Google will keep that information linked, but I wouldn’t be surprised if they do so simply due to annoyance factors (who wants to be asked on every search?). Imagine if your searches were linked to your driver’s license? Yikes.
Not content to rename one service this week, Google’s done another, but this one gets new features that make the name change make sense. Google Search History is now called Google Web History. With it, comes a new feature that keeps track of every web page you’ve ever visited, ever ever ever. If you have the Google Toolbar installed and the PageRank feature on, Google will keep track of all web pages you visit, enabling you to go back and visit everything and track everything.
It’s long been conspiracy theorized that, thanks to the PageRank feature on the toolbar, which tells you the PageRank value of every page you visit, Google could keep track of every site you go to. Now, thanks to Web History, that is actually true, but you have to specifically enable it in several ways, all of which Danny Sullivan explains. And yes, you can temporarily pause recording of your history.
Google’s new “Picks For You” button is great. Click the button and a new page loads up from your list. Click the drop down and you get a huge list of pages. I closely watched the status bar on Internet Explorer, and I found the URL the button is calling up:
Just click this link, and Google will load up a random page from your Search History. Nice! Now I can use this great feature in Opera. Drag the link to any browser toolbar, or bookmark it, and you can enjoy it all the time, as long as you are logged into your Google Account and have Search History enabled.
Google is launching right now two new Search History-based features which look really cool. I had the opportunity to talk to Sepandar Kamvar, Google’s personalization lead, about the new stuff on Monday, and here’s what I learned.
The first new feature is for the personalized homepage. Create a new “magic tab” called Recommendations (create new tab, name it exactly that, and leave checked the “I’m Feeling Lucky” box), and you’ll get a page filled with Gadgets that offer various categories of recommendations, based on other people who searched for the same things you did. Take a look:
Recommendation tabs large Hosted on Zooomr
(click to view full-size)
The Gadgets on the page are:
Searches - recommends Google News and Google Web searches, based on your search history, and showing some pages from those searches it things you might be interested in.
Groups - recommends Google Groups. This may not be ready by the time the feature is announced, I am told.
Gadgets - recommends Google Personalized Homepage Gadgets you might want to install.
Videos - recommends Google Video and YouTube videos you might want to watch. You can watch them right in the Gadget.
Pages - recommends web pages you might be interested in based on your Search History.
News - recommends news stories you might be interested in based on your Search History.
This is a well-designed homepage tab that you can grab very easilly, thanks to the magic tab feature. You can load it up, decide which tabs you like most, and get rid of any that aren’t for you. If you want more, the Pages and News Gadgets can replace the Searches Gadget and give similar info, and if you want less, get rid of those two and just use the Searches Gadget.
The other new feature is a really cool new Custom Button for the Google Toolbar. The button, based on your Search History and requiring you to be logged in, gives you every day fifty websites it has picked that it thinks you might like. Fifty new sites, every day, and you just click the button, get a new one, then click it again, and again, and again. Such a great way to browse when bored or curious.
They call it “search without actually searching”, presenting you information Google believes you to be interested in without you issuing a query. To use it, you’ll need the Google Toolbar installed, and it needs to be a recent edition that supports the wonderful Custom Buttoms feature. Currently, both the Internet Explorer and Firefox toolbars (and the Enterprise Toolbar for IE) support Custom Buttons, so you just need a recent version and you can use it on Windows, the Mac, or Linux.
The Customer Buttons feature works based on XML files, so I asked if this feature could possibly be used as a browser bookmarklet, URL, or just as a custom web page feature. As I was told, the “functionality of the button does not work without the toolbar”, but hopefully someone will be able to look into the XML and figure out what is possible. I use Opera, which has no Google Toolbar, but I’d love to be able to use this feature, maybe find some really amazing new websites. A real killer ability would be if the 50 pages list could be output as an RSS feed.
Anyway, that’s the whole story. I love what Google’s personalization guys are doing, creating some really useful features and making opting into Search History incredibly useful. Especially with my favorite Findory on its last legs, I’m really hoping Google is stepping into the void with these great personalization features. They’d better not let up, because the more, the better for everybody.
UPDATE: The features are now live, and have been announced on the Google Blog.
The US government has issued its report derived from all the user search histories it subpoena’d earlier this year. Seth Finkelstein says the findings include: “About 1 percent of the websites in the Google and MSN indexes are sexually explicit. About 6 percent of queries retrieve a sexually explicit website. Nearly 40 percent of the most popular queries retrieve a sexually explicit website.” I’m thinking this proves that adult sites have very successfully targeted the top search queries, and that Google has been unsuccessful in stopping them.
Google OS writes that there are ways to customize the Google Video Flash player, including a “simple” PlayerMode that removes most of the UI while the video is playing. I’m hoping Google releases a method for fully skinning the player in the future.
Nick Douglas left Valleywag. Damn, I’m gonna miss him. He really turned the blogosphere on its ear. Hopefully his new gig, whatever it is, will be as interesting. In the meantime, Gawker bigwig Nick Denton writes the blog, while looking for a new head gossip. Who will it be?
Skype was added to the Google Pack. It is the second IM/VOIP client in the Pack, although it is used by most for phone service, while Google Talk is used more as for IM. Still, the two will likely be competitors in the future, so Google promoting Skype seems almost short-sighted.
Finally, Gmail has a bunch of new features. They include a link in the top right hand corner that drops down some handy options, and helps clean up the interface, notifications of new items in a conversation while you are replying to other items, as well as some new icons. There’s also a feature that “mutes” a mailing list by hitting the “m” key, sending future emails straight to the archive. Philipp points out, rightly so, that Gmail’s interface is suffering from overload, and needs a housecleaning.
Google has added a new homepage widget that shows you “Interesting Items” personalized for you based on your search history. The module displays recommended searches, web pages and homepage gadgets Google thinks you’d be interested in.
Here’s what Google recommended for me:
1. jackie mason
2. little green footballs
3. jews for jesus
4. חוצות היוצר
5. spv m3100
6. nokia e62
7. rosh hashana
8. mda vario ii
9. treo 750
10. htc trinity
Some of those are just plain weird, while the rest are clearly biased towards my months-long search for a new cell phone. I stopped searching when I found a phone in July, give it up already!
1. Jerusalem Post | Breaking News from Israel, the Middle East and …
2. Shamash’s Kosher Restaurant Database
3. Better Whois: The WHOIS domain search that works with all registrars.
4. Arutz Sheva - Israel National News
5. Allwhois.com - whois domain name search & lookup
6. DNS Stuff: DNS tools, DNS hosting tests, WHOIS, traceroute, ping …
8. Search Engine Optimization, Google Optimization - SEO Chat
9. ODP - Open Directory Project
10. WordPress Plugins Database
You know, I was in Israel for two weeks; I don’t live there.
Recommended Gadget: New York Post Online News. Perfect personalization. I live in New York, I want news. Good call.
Verdict: While I don’t agree with all of the personalization, none of it is wrong. The items are all correct, they just aren’t as “Interesting” as the title claims. Perhaps if Google had more data and a better personalization engine, they’d have better luck. I’ll bet Findory could make a real powerful widget if they wanted to. Do you? Come on, Greg, give it a shot!
It is an interesting experiment. However, I think it suffers from the same problem as Google Personalized Search, focusing too much on a high-level, coarse-grained profile based on long-term behavior. I suspect the gadget would be more useful if it focused on your recent behavior — what you are doing now — and adapted rapidly to shifts in your current interests.
Google has reached an agreement with the Brazilian courts to hand over some Orkut data. The date is supposedly about “racism, pedophilia and homophobia” (2 of which I was not aware were crimes), and Google says it was willing to hand over the data because, unlike the U.S. Justice Department’s request, it was specific.
The Justice Department wanted Google’s entire search index, billions of pages and two months’ worth of queries, for a broad civil case. Brazil, by contrast, is looking for information in specific cases involving Google’s social networking site, Orkut, said the company.
“What they’re asking for is not billions of pages,” said Nicole Wong, Google associate general counsel. “In most cases, it’s relatively discrete — small and narrow.”
The Brazilian authorities are particularly interested in Internet protocol addresses with time and date stamps that can help trace a specific user. Registration information Google could provide includes names and e-mail addresses.
While Brazil was threatening Google with a fine of $23,000 a day, the reasons probably have less to do with money than with keeping Orkut big in Brazil, the one country where it is very popular.
I am so pleased to see that AOL fired the researcher who released the search privacy data, as well as that person’s supervisor, and “accepted” the resignation of technology chief Maureen Govern. While I hate to see anyone lose their job, this had to be done, because it puts the fear of job (stronger than the fear of god) in every employee at every search company who has access to customer search history. It’s a shame it had to come this far, but someone was bound to screw up like this, and AOL’s strong and decisive reaction will serve as leadership for the whole industry.
The New York Times writes about Thelma Arnold, a 62-year-old Georgia widow who was identified, despite a random anonymizing number, within AOL’s accidentally released search history research records. AOL had been running a three month study of random user’s search histories, without their consent or knowledge, and assigning each user a random identifier, but the queries of user No. 4417749 made it obvious that it was Ms. Arnold’s AOL search history.
Ms. Arnold says she loves online research, but the disclosure of her searches has left her disillusioned. In response, she plans to drop her AOL subscription. “We all have a right to privacy,” she said. “Nobody should have found this all out.”
Several bloggers claimed yesterday to have identified other AOL users by examining data, while others hunted for particularly entertaining or shocking search histories. Some programmers made this easier by setting up Web sites that let people search the database of searches.
This raises so many questions about search history, which is a hot topic these days. You could easily identify most people through their search history. For example, the sheer number of times I run a vanity search or search on my own websites would identify me. From there, you could publicize the fact that I may have ran a lot of “dirty” queries, including searches on unsecured MP3 servers, porn on Google Base, security exploits, and not realize those were all searches conducted while writing for this blog.
And, hell, maybe I just wanted to see some naughty bits…
Anyway, the point is that grouping searches by user, even dropping the user’s real name guarantees the user can be identified from their search data, provided there is a large enough number of searches. You can safely state that it will never be possible to release search data, either to the public or the government, and claim that the data is private, anonymous, and not harmful.
Companies like Google, Microsoft, Yahoo, AOL, Ask and other need to realize that it will never be okay to release our data, even without our names. If this paragraph from the article is true:
AOL removed the search data from its site over the weekend and apologized for its release, saying it was an unauthorized move by a team that had hoped it would benefit academic researchers.
Then a good move might be to publicly fire the person who made that decision. User privacy needs to be respected more, and if someone needs to lose their job and be made an example, in order to send a message to workers throughout the industry, then do it. Beyond that, research and data collection methods need to change in light of this situation. If anyone is ever going to release search history data again, how’s this for a rule: No more than one query released per user. With one query per user, you’ll never know whose private life you’re reading.
In the latest Google Toolbar for IE, you can easily bookmark pages from the toolbar by starring it. Then when you write in the search box it will try to match up your terms with some of your bookmarks. It can also find matches from your search history. It seems to have a bit of trouble with partial matching, meaning matching what you write with part of a word. It can match the beginning of a word, and it can match part of a word that is a made up of a few words (like BlogNewsChannel). Results are marked with “Bookmarks” or “History” next to them, and separated from the suggestions below that use Google Suggest technology.
Your bookmarks are easily accessible from any computer and they can be accessed through your Google account here. I’ll be waiting for this to come to the Firefox toolbar. The feature makes finding bookmarks easier, though the word you are looking for must actually be in the bookmark. They don’t check for the theme of the bookmark. That seems like something Ask.com might be able to do one day.
Are you one of the few who religiously use Google Search History’s bookmark feature, marking up sites you find and hoping Google adds more del.icio.us-type features in the future? Well, Google is making your task a little easier with a bookmarklet. The biggest limitation of the bookmarks is that they only appear when you click on them in a search, and this lets you add any page you browse to, just by clicking a toolbar button. Read more at Google Blogoscoped.
Did you know the notes you add to bookmarks appear in the search results? I had no idea.
So, I had a long and fruitful weekend (lots of wedding stuff got done). What does that mean? I’m way behind! So, I’m going to be running through a lot of stories with minimal noise.
First off, the judge in the Google search history case ruled that Google only has to hand over 50,000 URLs to the Justice Department, and absolutely no search history. There were reports last week that indicated the judge was going to rule against Google harsher than this, so Google’s calling it a victory.
While it does establish some sort of precedent, one I’m not a big fan of, this is still a case where a government agency tried to get random search history and lost, so we can be hopeful that requests for random and specific history in the future won’t be all that successful.
The judge’s order also said that Google “shall not be required to disclose proprietary information with respect to its database” and ordered the government to pay Google a “reasonable cost” for extracting the Web addresses. The Justice Department says it needs the data to help defend a controversial measure designed to hold Web sites liable if minors can access pornography on them.
In fact, the data the government got was so useless as to be absurd. 50,000 random URLs could have been had by hitting the Google API a bunch of times with random dictionary words and then randomizing the results. The DOJ should have thought of that before bringing to court a case they would eventually lose.
Russell Beattie, er, that is, the newer, Bigger Russell Beattie, says Google did good. They fought when Yahoo and Microsoft rolled over, and they wound up winning. Yahoo and Microsoft could have easily stood up as well, and gotten the good will Google has (mostly) gotten from this whole situation.
A federal judge said Tuesday he intends to require Google Inc. to turn over some information to the Department of Justice in its quest to revive a law making it harder for children to see online pornography.
U.S. District Judge James Ware did not immediately say whether the data will include words that users entered into the Internet’s leading search engine.
Looks like that fight’s done, unless Google’s serious enough to take this to the next level. I wonder, is it normal for a judge to announce how he plans to rule?
Techdirt reports that Google has moved its Chinese search history data out of China and into the United States, in an effort to keep the data out of the hands of the Chinese government.
Basically, Google, while still giving into the Chinese on net censorship, is still very much against helping get anyone arrested, and has as a result not opened any services that involve stored data (like Gmail) in China. Now, they’re taking the search data out of China, so that if the Chinese government asks for it, they can try to say, “Oh, it isn’t here, sorry”.
Of course, Google moved the data into the U.S., where the government is already famously trying to get access to… search history data. Oops. Techdirt suggests Google move the U.S. search history data to China, while keeping the China data here, and just hope that playing a game of hot potato will get everyone off their back. Methinks Google’s government problems won’t be going away anytime soon.