When sharing Google links, make sure you check the url for leaks first

Martin Brinkmann
Oct 29, 2015
Updated • Jan 4, 2018
Companies, Google
|
7

Have you ever shared links to Google Search results before? If you have, you may have noticed that the url pointing to the search results page contains several other parameters besides the search string.

While the search string is a given, since it indicates the page you want to share, all remaining parameters are not. In fact, none of the parameters is required to open the page.

Usually, that is not a big problem even though it may leak some information about the system you are using or the search itself. For instance, it may indicate the browser that you are using, or whether Safe Search is on or off.

Take a look at the following search query that I copied after running two searches in succession on Google:

https://www.google.de/search?q=star+wars&oq=star+wars&aqs=chrome.0.69i59j69i60j69i61j69i60j69i64.2159j0j9&sourceid=chrome&es_sm=93&ie=UTF-8#safe=off&q=star+trek

Notice anything in particular about it? Right, it does not only list the first search that you have conducted, but also the search before that.

google search leak

My first search was for Star Wars, the second for Star Trek, and both search queries are in the url. This is a big issue as you may leak information to others that you may not want to reveal to them depending on the first search you have conducted.

Good news is that Google does not append the previous search string to all current searches. It happens however when you search first using the browser's address bar, e.g. the one in Chrome, and then run a second search using the search form that is displayed on the search results page.

I have tested the behavior in several browsers including Chrome and Microsoft Edge, and it is replicated across all of them.

The leak can have serious privacy implications depending on the first search you have conducted and the people you share the link with.

You have two options to avoid the scenario altogether.

  1. Always audit the url before you share it. You may remove everything in it after the "?" with the exception of the "q=searchstring" parameter that is required to load the correct results page on Google.
  2. Never start searches from the address bar but open Google directly instead to run searches only once the site has loaded.

Actually, there is a third option, and that is to use another search engine that does not leak these information. I do use Startpage but there are others like DuckDuckGo that you may want to give a try. (via Jeremy Rubin)

Summary
When sharing Google links, make sure you check the url for leaks first
Article Name
When sharing Google links, make sure you check the url for leaks first
Description
Before you share the link of a Google Search, you need to make sure that it does not contain information about your previous search.
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Comments

  1. The Dark Lady said on July 9, 2023 at 11:19 am
    Reply

    Martin, I would appreciate that you do not censor this post, as it’s informative writing.

    Onur, there is a misleading statement “[…] GIFs are animated images …”. No, obviously you don’t seem to have take much notice of what you were told back in March regarding; Graphics Interchange Format (GIF).

    For example, https://www.ghacks.net/2023/03/31/whats-gif-explanation-and-how-to-use-it/#comment-4562919 (if you had read my replies within that thread, you might have learnt something useful). I even mentioned, “GIF intrinsically supports animated images (GIF89a)”.

    You linked to said article, [Related: …] within this article, but have somehow failed to take onboard what support you were given by several more knowledgeable people.

    If you used AI to help write this article, it has failed miserably.

    1. E. Fromme said on September 29, 2023 at 1:32 pm
      Reply

      EMRE ÇITAK posts are useless because they are fraught with inaccuracies and are irrelevant.

  2. KeZa said on August 17, 2023 at 5:58 pm
    Reply

    AI is stupid, and it will not get any better if we really know how this all works. Prove me wrong.. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4IYl1sTIOHI

  3. Database failure said on August 18, 2023 at 5:21 pm
    Reply

    Martin, [#comment-4569908] is only meant to be in: [https://www.ghacks.net/2023/07/09/how-to-send-gifs-on-iphone-two-different-ways/]. Whereas it appears duplicated in several recent random low-quality non relevant articles.

    Obviously it [#comment-4569908] was posted: 9 July 2023. Long before this thread even existed… your database is falling over. Those comments are supposed to have unique ID values. It shouldn’t be possible to duplicate the post ID, if the database had referential integrity.

  4. Howard Pearce said on August 25, 2023 at 12:24 pm
    Reply

    Don’t tell me!

    Ghacks wants the state to step in for STATE-MANDATED associations to save jobs!!!

    Bring in the dictatorship!!!

    And screw Rreedom of Association – too radical for Ghacks maybe

  5. Howard Allan Pearce said on September 7, 2023 at 9:13 am
    Reply

    GateKeeper ?

    That’s called “appointing” businesses to do the state’s dirty work!!!!!

    But the article says itself that those appointed were not happy – implying they had not choice!!!!!!

    1. Howard Allan Pearce Jones said on October 1, 2023 at 4:28 am
      Reply

      Rreedom of Association is one of our most important rights. Some people think it’s Freedom, but no, I say Rreedom is far more important. There are many STATE-MANDATED associations that save jobs, that’s right MANDATED. I can’t name any of them, but rest assured they are bad, because saving jobs are bad, and people having jobs leads to dictatorship!!! Anyone who disagrees is too radical for Ghacks maybe, because I’m not sure.

  6. owl said on September 7, 2023 at 9:50 am
    Reply

    @The Dark Lady,
    @KeZa,
    @Database failure,
    @Howard Pearce,
    @Howard Allan Pearce,

    Note: I replaced the quoted URI scheme: https:// with “>>” and posted.

    The current ghacks.net is owned by “Softonic International S.A.” (sold by Martin in October 2019), and due to the fate of M&A, ghacks.net has changed in quality.
    >> ghacks.net/2023/09/02/microsoft-is-removing-wordpad-from-windows/#comment-4573130
    Many Authors of bloggers and advertisers certified by Softonic have joined the site, and the site is full of articles aimed at advertising and clickbait.
    >> ghacks.net/2023/08/31/in-windows-11-the-line-between-legitimate-and-adware-becomes-increasingly-blurred/#comment-4573117
    As it stands, except for articles by Martin Brinkmann, Mike Turcotte, and Ashwin, they are low quality, unhelpful, and even vicious. It is better not to read those articles.
    How to display only articles by a specific author:
    Added line to My filters in uBlock Origin: ghacks.net##.hentry,.home-posts,.home-category-post:not(:has-text(/Martin Brinkmann|Mike Turcotte|Ashwin/))
    >> ghacks.net/2023/09/01/windows-11-development-overview-of-the-august-2023-changes/#comment-4573033

    By the way, if you use an RSS reader, you can track exactly where your comments are (I’m an iPad user, so I use “Feedly Classic”, but for Windows I prefer the desktop app “RSS Guard”).
    RSS Guard: Feed reader which supports RSS/ATOM/JSON and many web-based feed services.
    >> github.com/martinrotter/rssguard#readme

  7. Anonymous said on September 14, 2023 at 6:41 pm
    Reply

    We all live in digital surveillance glass houses under scrutiny of evil people because of people like Musk. It’s only fair that he takes his turn.

  8. Anonymous said on September 18, 2023 at 1:31 pm
    Reply

    “Operating systems will be required to let the user choose the browser, virtual assistant and search engine of their choice. Microsoft cannot force users to use Bing or Edge. Apple will have to open up its iOS operating system to allow third-party app stores, aka allow sideloading of apps. Google, on the other hand, will need to provide users with the ability to uninstall preloaded apps (bloatware) from Android devices. Online services will need to allow users to unsubscribe from their platform easily. Gatekeepers need to provide interoperability with third-parties that offer similar services.”

    Wonderful ! Let’s hope they’ll comply with that law more than they are doing with the GDPR.

  9. sean conner said on September 27, 2023 at 6:21 am
    Reply
  10. Sherry Grant said on September 29, 2023 at 7:47 pm
    Reply

    What does this article about Musk/Tesla have to do with computing, devices, phones?
    More irelevant filler.

  11. Anonymous said on September 29, 2023 at 8:47 pm
    Reply

    yeah sure… they are always the victims and it is only against them ????

    Believe them 100% and never question anything. This lawsuit sounds like the type you heard when people were eating batteries.

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