The Tracks We Leave Behind - InformationWeek

InformationWeek is part of the Informa Tech Division of Informa PLC

This site is operated by a business or businesses owned by Informa PLC and all copyright resides with them.Informa PLC's registered office is 5 Howick Place, London SW1P 1WG. Registered in England and Wales. Number 8860726.

IoT
IoT
Feature
News
3/10/2006
04:00 PM
Connect Directly
Google+
LinkedIn
Twitter
RSS
E-Mail
50%
50%

The Tracks We Leave Behind

How private is Web search?

Not very. Web users leave behind footprints in server logs that record their activities. The logs show the IP address of a user's computer, the date and time a visitor clicked on a Web page, the user's PC operating system and browser, and the referring URL that brought them to a site.

An IP address can, with a reasonable degree of accuracy, be used to identify a user's location, through a geolocation service or an Internet service provider. When compelled by law or sometimes merely at the request of legal authorities, ISPs will identify their subscribers.

The referring URL is the link that brings a visitor to a Web page. When associated with a Web search, the referring URL typically includes the keyword used. Thus, when someone conducting a Google search for "informationweek" comes to InformationWeek .com, the referring URL--http://www.google.com/search?&q= informationweek--gets sent to our server.

What this means is that controversial keywords--say "bomb recipes" or "assisted suicide"--are transferred to the server at the end of the link, leaving a record of how someone arrived at a particular page.

All this information--IP address, date, time, user agent, HTTP cookie, and referring URL--gets recorded together. That makes it fairly easy to identify a Web user unless the person is sophisticated enough to use software to conceal or falsify the tracks he or she has left behind.

Return to the story:
What Google Search Reveals About Us


We welcome your comments on this topic on our social media channels, or [contact us directly] with questions about the site.
Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
2019 State of DevOps
2019 State of DevOps
DevOps is needed in today's business environment, where improved application security is essential and users demand more applications, services, and features fast. We sought to see where DevOps adoption and deployment stand, this report summarizes our survey findings. Find out what the survey revealed today.
Slideshows
How to Land a Job in Cloud Computing
Cynthia Harvey, Freelance Journalist, InformationWeek,  6/19/2019
Commentary
How to Convince Wary Customers to Share Personal Information
John Edwards, Technology Journalist & Author,  6/17/2019
Commentary
The Art and Science of Robot Wrangling in the AI Era
Guest Commentary, Guest Commentary,  6/11/2019
Register for InformationWeek Newsletters
Video
Current Issue
A New World of IT Management in 2019
This IT Trend Report highlights how several years of developments in technology and business strategies have led to a subsequent wave of changes in the role of an IT organization, how CIOs and other IT leaders approach management, in addition to the jobs of many IT professionals up and down the org chart.
White Papers
Slideshows
Twitter Feed
Sponsored Live Streaming Video
Everything You've Been Told About Mobility Is Wrong
Attend this video symposium with Sean Wisdom, Global Director of Mobility Solutions, and learn about how you can harness powerful new products to mobilize your business potential.
Sponsored Video
Flash Poll