If you still use Google services regularly, it's worth noting they allow you do disable some of the tracking they perform. Browser plugins can help to block the rest.
Disable Web History
Most people I talk to don't realise Google records all the sites they visit through their searches. They bill it as a way to "tailor search results". The DuckDuckGo people call it "search bubbling". I deem it "unnecessary". Fortunately, Google lets you turn it off:
- Log in, the go to history.google.com
- Click the gear button on the right hand side
- Choose "Settings"
- Click "Pause"
To confirm, go back to history.google.com and notice the bright blue "Turn History On" button. Isn't it interesting that Google lets you turn web tracking on with one click, but it takes three clicks and loading a menu behind an untitled button to turn it off? ;)
It should be noted here that web history is merely being "paused". Whether Google can turn it back on, or can be compelled to, would be reason enough to logout when you want to use their search.
Adorable Hyouka detective image by こよる on Pixiv
Set DoubleClick tracking opt-out cookies
Google's advertising arms and subsidiaries track you across sites by default, but you can disable it with a cookie by visiting:
Google now even offer a plugin for Firefox, Chrome and Internet Explorer to store your desire not to be tracked. I haven't tested this, so I can't vouch for it.
In both cases, these opt-outs are stored in your browser, not your account. Therefore, to prevent this kind of tracking you need to have the opt-out cookie and/or plugin installed on every browser and on each computer/smartphone. Cumbersome, I know, but it's currently the only option Google allows us.
To further prevent tracking, there are several different plugins you can use.
For Mozilla browsers, Gprivacy forces sites to respect the do-not-track header by sanitising links in search results. Any links that it modifies in your browser are shown with a green shield, and the original link with a red shield is included alongside it.
If you're not interested in maintaining a cookie whitelist with CS Lite Mod or Cookie Monster, the Beef Taco extension maintains opt-outs for hundreds of advertising networks, including Google. I've blogged about this before.
As I've said with all cloud computing services, the key isn't to abstain from them, but to use them wisely. As Professor Frink would say, MMMMMMMM-HIVEN MAVEN!