Keeping Private Matters Private in Google Desktop Search

    March 9, 2005

Google Desktop Search is a great tool-if you’ve got nothing to hide on your computer from anyone else who might sit down and do a search-innocently or not.

GDS Privacy
Maintain Your Privacy Using Google Desktop Search

Are there any of you who use Google Desktop Search? Better yet, are there any of you that want to but have privacy issues with Google’s tool? Please discuss at WebProWorld.

How can you protect your personal information from being searched from your spouse, the kids, a coworker or your boss? Fortunately, there are a few simple things you can do. While they won’t keep someone out who knows what he’s doing, it will keep people form accidentally bringing up something private.

Setting your Preferences

For starters, let’s take a look at the Desktop Preferences page. You access this from the “Preferences” link on the Google Desktop search page.

Here are the things you can change to increase your privacy:

Search types: Here you select the various types of items you want indexed. The obvious ones you might want to omit are AIM, and possibly email. But at the bottom of the list, you’ll see two item types that you’ll most likely definitely want to uncheck: “password-protected Office documents,” and “secure pages (HTTPS) in web history.”

Don’t Search these items: This is a list box where you can enter what not to index by path or URL. You might key in something like the following:

c:\Documents and Settings\username\Private Stuff
h:\\Private Docs (network drive)

Search Box Display: You might want to not display the Search Box Display and just call it up from the Programs list when you need it. It is tempting to use floating around on your desktop.

Google integration: This one is important. If you check this option, a standard Web Search will add your Desktop Search results just above your web search results so you can see both at once. If you uncheck this, the user will only see the regular Web Search results. To me, this seems the most dangerous to have checked if you’ve got things on your computer you don’t want others accidentally seeing when using the computer to search for something.

There is no way to take the “Desktop” link off the main Google page where it sits with Images, News and the rest. However, Google says that a password protect feature for the Desktop Search is being considered for the next release. They could at least allow you to set preferences as to what options are displayed on that line.

Removing Items Already Indexed

You may have items that are already indexed. When you see them on a Desktop Search results page you have the ability to remove them from the displaying in the future (be forewarned: until you view the item again). Just check the “Remove Items” link up in the header area, and the rest is easy to follow. Note that if you view the removed item, it will be included again.

If anyone else has other ideas for improving privacy, please use the comments feature to share them.

Mark Fleming is the founder of a new blog called Google Tutor & Advisor. Google Tutor & Advisor offers in-depth Tips, Techniques and Advice for Google Users.

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