No question is too strange, and no issue is too small for Tech 911. This week, we explore a question from a reader who is finding things pop up in her Google history that she (claims) she never searched for... and it only gets more interesting from there.
In an email from Lifehacker reader Tiffanie:
“I have a question that has been an issue for the last 3 years. So, I’ll be honest, my boyfriend and I watch porn each separately on our phones. We each have gone through each others’ phone activity through Google, and when he looks at mine, there are items in there that I never Googled, like live cams chat room stuff. I have never in my life entered this into my Google search but I have a suspicion that they are pop ups from the porn sites. I want to know how and why they come up as my searches. And there are other things that show up that I supposedly googled but I know for a fact I didn’t. Can you help me, please?”
It’s certainly possible that you’re getting popups during your browsing... sessions... and that these are appearing in your Google history. I just did a quick bit of research (for science), and these annoying ads can appear pretty regularly on even some of the more well-known sites one might first think to go to when one needs a little daily nekkid distraction.
Popup ads can appear on both desktop and mobile—the former is worth noting, because if you’re using the same Google account on both your smartphone and your desktop (or laptop), and synchronizing its contents across your devices, your search history will have everything you’ve looked at. So, it’s possible that you’re getting pop-ups in one location, not really thinking about it, but then wondering why your mobile (or Google) history is full of things you don’t recall viewing on your smartphone.
It’s also possible, though less likely, that you’re logged into another computer you don’t know about, and whoever is using that browser is adding strange things to your synchronized history. If this is the case, you’d probably notice a lot more sites you don’t recall visiting, and possibly even some really strange account activity (like emails you didn’t send). Just in case, hit up Google’s My Account page, click on Device activity & security events, click on Review Devices in the “Recently used devices” section, and click every authorized device, and remove it.
You’ll have to go through the slightly annoying process of reconnecting the devices you regularly use back to Google, but at least you’ll have a little more peace-of-mind knowing that someone else isn’t browsing on your account. (I’m still not convinced that’s the problem, but it doesn’t hurt to be sure.)
While you’re at it, consider changing your password, too, and enabling two-factor authentication just in case someone other than you or your boyfriend has access to your account.
And since we’re on the topic, now’s a great time to discuss whether it makes the most sense to allow anyone—even your boyfriend—to look through your digital stuff. Without getting too Love Doctor instead of Tech Doctor, trust is important and all in a relationship, but you should probably also have some modicum of privacy.
Talk about what you like to watch and search for online—heck, even share your favorites with each other over dinner—but letting someone have access to your account and/or devices? Not the best idea, security-wise. (At least, that’s my assumption; it’s completely possible that you’re just browsing through your Chrome history together, which doesn’t sound like the most fun of dates but, hey, the couple that Pornhubs together stays together. Or something.)
Do you have a tech question keeping you up at night? Tired of troubleshooting your Windows or Mac? Looking for advice on apps, browser extensions, or utilities you can use to accomplish a particular task? Let us know! Tell us in the comments below or, better yet, email firstname.lastname@example.org.