What is search history, and how is it different from browsing history?

What is search history, and how is it different from browsing history?

March 20, 2024 privacy 0

These days, it’s easy for various entities, such as ISPs and search engines, to track everything you’re doing online. There’s nothing wrong with this if you want to record your online activity for your reference. However, it quickly becomes a privacy issue when your past activity — including what you search for and what sites you browse online — becomes accessible to organizations or databases to use for their purposes. In situations like these, deleting your search history becomes useful. What is search history? Search history refers to any record (usually online and attached to a specific web browser or account) of a user’s searches. Whenever you input a search term into a search engine, such as Google, Yahoo, or Bing, your associated account with the search engine will keep a record of your recent history. While it’s primarily associated with search engines, search history is also collected by major social media platforms, such as YouTube or Facebook. If you’ve used the search function of any social media website, it’s safe to assume that you already have a search history in their database. Search history vs. browsing history The main difference between search and browsing history is that your search history is a list of anything you’ve typed into a search engine or search bar, while your browsing history is all of your online activity stored in your specific browser. Both still involve your cookies and cache and are usually saved automatically during online sessions. Search history is typically far more than a list of web pages you’ve visited. Anytime you look for information or content on Chrome, Firefox, or other browsers, the term you’ve used is saved in the account associated with your online profile. This information is then stored and synced across all devices, unlike browsing history, which only stores your web activity on that specific browser or device. Here’s a good rule of thumb to remember which is which: If it’s web data that’s accessible when you log in to your Google account or it’s a word that you’ve entered as a search term, it’s search history. If it’s data accessible via the settings menu of a specific browser like Opera, Firefox, or Chrome or stored in the local data of the device, it’ll most likely fall under browsing history. Why do search engines collect search history data? A common reason why search engines collect your search history data is personalization. Search engines are designed to make searching a lot easier. So data you input into a search engine will contribute to a profile of the kind of user you are. This profile is important for the following reasons: It helps the search engine refine the results it shows you, allowing you to spend less time on search. It analyzes your search history to make future searches more relevant to your historical interests. It personalizes its recommendations for you with regard to ads, content, and services. Personalization is also the reason your search history is stored on search engines associated with social media platforms and other similar websites. It makes navigating these websites easier and provides relevant content, which can improve your online experience by tailoring it to your online habits. Should I delete my search history? Given the usefulness of having a search history with the websites and search engines that you often use, you might think that deleting your search history would just worsen your online experience. However, having a record online of all your search terms is a privacy issue — one that can lead to an invasion of your privacy at best and can expose your device to potential cyberattacks at worst. Search engines can take data anytime you’re online as long as you’re signed into your account. This means that data is being collected on you at all times, even data that you wouldn’t feel comfortable sharing. You also can’t rely on the search engine to always check in with you about keeping a record of your searches. So as a user, you’ll need to take the initiative if you don’t want a record of your search history being kept online. How to delete search history Because policies about storing search history can differ between browsers, search engines, and even for the country you are browsing from, deleting your search history from a specific search engine won’t always be so simple. Some search engines will always keep some data on your search history to improve your online experience and build your online profile, while others will delete it entirely upon request. However, taking action with the search history you’ve accumulated and deciding how it’ll be collected from you in the future can give you some measure of privacy with your online activity. Here’s how to find and delete your search history from your most-used search engines and websites. How to delete Google search history You can delete Google search history via your Google Account. Log in to your Google account. Choose “Data and privacy,” then keep scrolling till you see “History settings.” From here, you can select which information from your search history you want to remove, delete all your search history, and adjust how your history is stored in your Google account. Doing this won’t delete voice search results — to do that, check out our guide on how to delete your Google voice search history. How to delete Bing search history You can delete your Bing search history via your Microsoft Account. Log in to your Microsoft account. From the hamburger menu icon, choose “Search history.” From here, you can delete specific parts of your search history. You can also choose to clear it by clicking the “Clear all” button. How to delete Yahoo search history You can clear your Yahoo search history by navigating to the Yahoo search page’s settings. From “Settings,” choose “Search history.” Choose individual parts of your search history to delete, or select them all. Choose “Delete” to confirm removal. You can also prevent Yahoo from storing more data about your search activity by choosing the “Turn history off” option in the same menu settings. {SHORTCODES.blogRelatedArticles} How to delete YouTube search history Since YouTube uses Google to store your search history, you can also delete your YouTube search history via your Google account. Choose “YouTube history” from your “Data & privacy” menu. Choose “Manage history.” You may delete specific parts, a time range of your YouTube history, or all of it. Choose “Delete” to confirm. You’ll also be able to specify whether you want YouTube to store your search history or auto-delete it after a set number of days under the same settings. How to delete Facebook search history You can delete your Facebook search history via your account’s “Settings & privacy” menu. From the “Settings & privacy” menu, choose “Settings” and then click on “Activity log.” Choose “Logged information.” Choose “Your search history.” Choose individual parts of your search history to delete, or choose “Clear searches” at the top right to clear all of your search history. You may also choose to disconnect your past activity from Meta technologies via your Facebook accounts center. How to delete Instagram search history You can delete your Instagram search history via your accounts center. Choose “More” from the three-line (or hamburger) menu on the top right of your Instagram profile and click “Settings.” Choose “Accounts center.” Choose “Your information and permissions” and select “Search history.” Choose the account from which you want to delete the search history. You can remove search histories individually or navigate to the “Search” tab on the left menu to delete all recent searches. Alternatively, you can delete your search history when you clear your Instagram cache. You may also choose to opt out of Instagram storing your search history via the “Manage future activity” option in the “Your information and permissions” menu. How to delete Twitter search history While you can delete your Twitter search history on the app and browser, it’s generally recommended to clear it from the browser because it shows search histories that aren’t displayed in the app. Log in to your Twitter account. Choose “Explore” from the left menu. Click the search bar at the top. You can choose to delete individual search histories or choose “Clear all” to delete everything. Simply repeat this process if you find that your searches pop up again. You can also try to clear your Twitter cache if you want to remove more of your data from the platform, but that won’t clear data like saved search terms. How to keep your online searches more private Most search engines and social media platforms already provide options in their account settings that can help keep your online activity — including your search history — more private. But if you’re looking for general approaches to keeping your online searches more secure, here are some approaches you can consider: Browse using incognito mode. When you go into incognito mode, it prevents the tracking of online activity to some extent. However, that will only work on the specific incognito session/browser you have open. Your activity may still be visible to your internet service provider or administrators overseeing your internet connection. Use a VPN. A virtual private network encrypts information you send online and masks your IP address from the sites you visit. This helps keep your device and your online activity (including search history) more secure. It won’t stop search engines like Google from logging your activity if you’re logged in to your Google account (or any search engine activity that takes place on your social media platforms), but it will encrypt your online traffic from parties like your internet service provider. Consider private search engines. Search engines like Qwant, DuckDuckGo, and Startpage don’t collect your information when you use them, unlike Google or Yahoo. Combined with a VPN, private search engines are usually the best-case approach to ensuring your search history, web app activity, and general activity data stay more private. Delete yourself from the internet. Deleting yourself from the internet can be a long process, but it’s a significant step forward if you want to keep your online activity private. Consider deleting your social media accounts, clearing your cache from different browsers, and researching how to remove personal information from the internet.

The post What is search history, and how is it different from browsing history? first appeared on NordVPN.


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