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What Can You Get From Your Search History and Is It Even Worth Downloading?


If we were to broadcast our individual search history, the results could prove confusing, if not downright embarrassing. We may not be searching for anything particularly scandalous, but even still, the heat of shame may redden our cheeks. 

A scroll through a week of one person’s internet searches could reveal “Fusion Theory” and “How to Give Back to My Community” followed by “Chris Hemsworth” and “Hottest Hemsworth Brother.” Who wants to explain their queries?  We would much prefer to keep them private.  

Downloading or deleting an internet search history seems to be a focal point in many cinematic thrillers. Spies sneak into the offices of “bad guys” and download their files or internet searches. Murderers wipe their “How to Hide a Body” search queries, assuming this will allow them to get away with their crimes. In real life, we don’t spend enough time thinking about the personal ripple effects of what we look for on the internet. 

Much press is given to the intricacies of internet privacy. If you Goggle “How to Delete My Search History,” over ten pages of results show up. We may think deleting our searches will keep marketing firms from tracking us or building our personal target profiles. 

If you were to search “Why I Should Download My Search History,” the first page of results is over five years old. The perks of downloading your search history aren’t as widely broadcasted.

Some of us surf the web in Incognito Mode. Others periodically delete any records of their searches. Yet most of us don’t give much thought to downloading our web footprints.  However, doing so can be beneficial–there are a few drawbacks and many benefits to downloading your search history.

Downloading your search history can be worth your time. TakeOut, an app from Google, makes the process easy.  Here are some of the steps to take to, and, reasons to think about, downloading and keeping track of the internet paths you’ve traveled down.

Google TakeOut

One of the many featured apps for Google account holders, TakeOut offers an easy way to download your search history. Unfortunately, TakeOut doesn’t offer tacos or pizza, but we wouldn’t be surprised if Google gets there eventually.

TakeOut was created in 2011 as a way to provide easy access to digital files. By downloading your digital history to a hard backup, you can plug in those files wherever you’re accessing the internet. 

TakeOut allows you to:

  • Make a physical copy of your Google calendar.
  • Archive Google documents to a physical location.
  • Download archived data to clear up space on your Google Drive
  • Back-up your back-up: Anything in your Cloud can be moved to physical storage

TakeOut allows you to access and download over fifty types of internet data. You can keep your search history in a physical space, thereby allowing you to clean up your Google Bookmarks so you no longer have to sift through three hundred bookmarked pages. 

How to use Google TakeOut

TakeOut is a relatively easy app to use as well. You can download your search history by following these easy steps:

  • Log into your Google account and access GoogleTakeOut
  • Go to Download Data
  • In the Drop Down Menu, check the data types to download
  • Choose the method of download: have Google send you a link or place in Drive or Dropbox storage
  • Select compressed .zip saving option
  • You can opt-in to automatic archive, which occurs every two months
  • Sign out of TakeOut and sign in to your personal Google account
  • Open Google Drive
  • Click New Folder upload to upload your downloaded data

All of your bookmarked YouTube videos and obscure articles are now physically stored forever. 

Double your privacy measures

The internet has come a long way in installing firewall protection to prevent data breaches, but there’s still so much to worry about when online. The online world is far safer than it was a decade ago but still isn’t completely safe.

In 2014, internet and cell phone giant, Verizon Communications, was under scrutiny for installing “perma-cookies” in the software packages of Verizon customers. The company promised the cookies were only used to hone customer profiles, and not to sell their data to advertisers. 

However, these cookies broadcasted data any time a user searched. While consumer information wasn’t actively sold, the perma-cookies allowed for data mining during searches. Thus, the average internet user became more aware of the importance of their search history. People began deleting their histories en masse.

Although deleting your search history doesn’t completely eradicate ad trackers, it does help. Deleting an entire history can have its drawbacks too. That’s why adding the step of downloading your searches before deletion may be helpful.

Incognito mode just means our public profile isn’t on full display as we search. The mode keeps advertisers from having a record of our searches, but your internet service providers (ISP) can still track our internet history. Thus, marketing sites with access to our ISP data can still build a targeted advertising profile from our data. Incognito mode protects our computers from downloading site data but does little to prevent hackers, and websites can still access our data.

Downloading your search history can offer an extra layer of protection for you. If hackers attempt to control your digital data or access your personal information by digging into your search history, you now have a physical copy to prevent any important bookmarks, etc., from fully disappearing. You can also see where possible security breaches may lie by reviewing your downloaded search history.

Backing-Up your search data

The primary reason to download your search history is to back up your data. Some of us tend to read an internet article and then dive down the rabbit hole of its hyperlinks. We follow the hole through its bifurcating tunnels and our search lands far away from where it began. 

Months later, we want to bring up points from our original searched piece in conversation. We long to wow our family and friends with our knowledge. But, we may not remember where we found the information. Our web search histories have taken so many twists and turns since it won’t be easy locating the article. Though, if we have our searches downloaded to a personal zip drive, we can easily click on both the story and its host site. 

Another reason to backup your search data is to ensure quicker access to your searched websites. If you regularly wipe your history from a search engine, you may find your computer downloading a rarely visited site all over again. This takes up time and may slow down your wi-fi connection. When you access the internet via your backup data, your computer won’t have to download as much code and source information to revisit articles or host sites.

Accessing your data on other devices

When you download your search history, you can plug the files into any device you’re working on. For example, if you used your personal computer to do work research, you can plug the downloaded zip drive into your work computer. You can access all of the pages you visited at home without having to repeat your time-consuming searches. This backed-up data can help you plug into apps and online games from your various devices too.

Protection from the ups and downs of Net Neutrality

Even with the promotion of free and accessible internet, our online access is never completely free. We navigate around paywalls that limit our access to a wide scope of online content.  Without net neutrality, these limits will only increase. We experienced the tip of this online iceberg when former President Trump repealed net neutrality regulations set by President Obama. 

When President Biden took office, the road to net neutrality opened back up. As the U.S. rules of net neutrality change as often as presidential administrations, protecting your digital data can help safeguard you against constant paywalls and other adverse effects.

The thinking behind these regulations is that everyone should have equal access to the internet. The plan prohibits internet service providers from monopolizing and monetizing internet access. For net neutrality supporters, the fear is that without regulations, ISPs could slow down access to, say, a competitor’s web pages. Or, could decrease the bandwidth used by the general public.

Large internet sites with huge marketing budgets could pay for people to have easy, quick connections to their sites. The general public could experience a slowdown in Wi-Fi connection, and large ISP networks could inflate costs to ensure high-speed access to all internet users.

When the regulations protecting net neutrality were repealed, federal internet protections crumbled, but legislators stepped in on a state level to keep the internet a neutral space. Should net neutrality ever be rendered null and void, having a physical copy of your data may allow you a better connection to sites and apps. 

Without net neutrality, ISP control over Wi-Fi speed could grow, and smaller sites could become harder to access. Nonetheless, you’ll be able to maintain your ability to connect via your downloaded, physical data.

Downloading your search history may seem like an unnecessary step to take. But the task doesn’t have to be an arduous one. Google TakeOut makes the downloading process easy. Physical data means you can plug in your .zip file anywhere you have internet access. You could enhance your online privacy by taking this extra step to know what’s on the net. The peace of mind and extra security measures are worth it.

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