As the we tie our actions, thoughts and personal lives to the Internet, there’s a living record of everything we do—our social graph on Facebook, our terrible emoji-bedazzled selfies hidden away with Snapchat, our hopes and dreams on cheesy Pinterest boards. But there’s one special place in your digital habits more revealing of your thoughts and explorations than any other: your Internet search history.
Now, for the first time ever, that psychological history is in your hands.
This week, Google opened the floodgates on our personal Internet usage by allowing anyone with a Google account to download their entire search history. It’s as if a camera has been watching you for a decade, and you’ve only just been told that you can watch the tapes if you ask politely.
Speaking of a damning record, we went into the deepest recesses of the dating profile of one of the Internet’s greatest drug lords and fell in love along the way.
“But I deleted my search history so that my fetishes and favorite songs would remain secret from my parents/girlfriend/boss!,” you complain, suddenly perfectly aware of just how exposed you’ve always been.
See, you were deleting your browser history. Firefox and Internet Explorer forgot all about how you casually tracked Scott Stapp’s career when he went solo post-Creed, but almighty Google never forgets. And now they’re offering up everything they know in an elegant .zip file of text documents, indexed by time frame.
Give it a shot. There’s so much you’ll find.
You’ll see how, at the outset of the indexable Internet, you were so bad at search. Personally, I used to search home-pages and then digging through the general site map and design to find a page, instead of using a few keywords to skip right past home-pages.
You’ll be able to watch over time how much our digital lives have increased in importance and relevance—my first three months of Googling are a short page of a handful of results, while the past three are unreadably long. Insofar as your search history is a record of yourself, you can see how much you’ve changed, in your habits, likes and interests.
You’ll also see how much you haven’t changed—you’ll realize that you’ve been listening to some of the same music, returning to the same old books and articles and re-watching old clips, trailers and shows for way longer than you thought you have.
You’ll find records of passing interests you never pursued, songs you never downloaded, friends you stalked—if you were young enough, you’ll see search results over and over again for the things you always were saving for, digging around for reviews and Amazon pages for things you could never afford. And you’ll find the occasional Easter Egg or cringe-worthy moment.
“What the hell is a Brompton Cocktail?” I asked myself, staring at an archive of from late 2010. “Ah, it’s a way of killing yourself—I wasn’t that depressed, was I? Oh no, worse, it’s the name of a song by Avenged Sevenfold. Busted.”
Lastly, it will remind you how much you’ve given away to Google, Facebook, Instagram and wherever else you’ve put your trust. In fact, the most remarkable thing about the new feature is that Google would ever give it away, given how its given them the power to transform into a megalithic advertising empire.
It will show you just how comprehensive your profile is—that given all of the pieces, even a rudimentary platform could put together a strong profile of your interests, likes, where you live, where you’ve travelled, everything someone might value or want to sell. It’ll remind you that as long as someone is interested in selling it, there will be someone holding onto those records.
And that on the Internet, nothing ever truly dies.
Go to this link for your account settings, click the cog in the top right, and open Pandora’s Box if you want to learn who you really