Most Brits Concerned About Their Search History Data, ExpressVPN Finds

Millions of Britons would change their web surfing habits if their Internet search history was made public.

This is perhaps the unsurprising conclusion from anonymous browsing enabler ExpressVPN, which this week published research offering insights into people’s attitudes regarding sharing their online surfing secrets with Google, but not with their friends.

Indeed, Google has been previously sued on multiple occasions for allegedly tracking people’s internet usage and habits, even when a browser’s ‘private mode’ has been enabled.

Surfing habits

The new research shared by ExpressVPN has shown that 50 percent of Brits admit that if they knew their internet search history would be made public they would alter their online behaviour, with potentially millions admitting they would feel embarrassed, worried and ashamed.

And it’s not just personal, the study of 2,000 adults by OnePoll found almost a third (29 percent) have been worried about how their online profile has impacted their ability to find a job.

And the data revealed that 62 percent of Brits are worried,or very worried, about how much companies can know about them based on their Internet search history.

The research also revealed that 28 percent of people admit to snooping on someone else’s search history, with 46 percent of these checking that of their spouse or partner.

“Your search history is like your digital DNA,” noted Harold Li, VP at ExpressVPN, which commissioned the research. “It can reflect your innermost thoughts and worries as well as where you’re thinking of for your next holiday.”

Harold Li, ExpressVPN

“Being able to access information and get answers to questions through search is a given in today’s world,” Li added. “The ability to be able to do this privately and without fear is critical.”

Embarrassed, worried

The ExpressVPN research found that 35 percent of Brits admitting to telling Google stuff that they would not tell anyone else. It is therefore perhaps unsurprising that nearly half admit that they would feel some type of negative emotion if someone saw their internet search history with a fifth (19 percent) feeling awkward, 17 percent feeling embarrassed, and 10 percent worried.

Two-fifths of those who would be embarrassed (40 percent) admit this is because they have a ‘naughty’ search history, with a similar number more worried it would reveal some of the ‘silly’ thoughts in their head.

And 37 percent of embarrassed surfers are worried that it reveals a side to them they just do not want to share.

Parents topped the poll for those who we’d be most embarrassed to see our searches at 50 percent but were closely followed by spouses/partners at 40 percent and 20 percent if colleagues saw their unfiltered search history.

And it seems that most people (68 percent) are more comfortable turning to the internet to answer tricky questions, rather than friends or family.

In fact, 17 percent of people would rather ask the internet for advice on sex, dating and relationships, and 10 percent of people prefer to search online about politics than turn to family or loved ones.

Medical issues

The study also identifies that 21 percent turn to the internet when it’s a subject that they can’t talk about or aren’t ready to talk to friends and family about, such as mental health or contraception.

The ExpressVPN research also found that 22 percent of people would rather search online to diagnose a physical illness, and 17 percent for a cure than ask friends and family.

Nearly one in ten (9 percent) of people would rather search online for cures for a mental condition than turn to friends and family.

And of course, there’s the embarrassment of not knowing an answer to ‘simple’ questions with almost a third of people (30 percent) would rather search online to find out the meaning of certain words and 22 percent how to make a meal or drink than reveal their lack of knowledge.

But while the research showed that most people are worried about how much companies can know about them, people are doing very little to protect their online privacy, with 47 percent of respondents never browsing incognito and 58 percent never using a VPN to protect themselves.

“Using a VPN can be a useful tool to ensure companies can’t see, log, or sell records of your activity online, such as what websites you are connecting to or apps you’re using, said Li, “Every day, millions of internet users are giving big companies the ability to look at what they’re doing online – and they don’t even know it. By taking control of what we let others see about our online behaviour, users are taking power back into their own hands, quickly and effectively.”

Tom Jowitt

Tom Jowitt is a leading British tech freelancer and long standing contributor to Silicon UK. He is also a bit of a Lord of the Rings nut...

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