I am not sure whether this is the best place to get my concerns addressed, but I hope it is. I went through some earlier questions posted on this site about Gmail and privacy but they don't seem to address my concern.

I use Google Chrome heavily as it's really fast and usable compared to other browsers. I also use Gmail for my personal email because it has Google search.

Recently I started a job search and I am using Gmail to email my resume to potential employers. I want to keep this totally secret, such that not even my friends will know that I am seeking a new job. I am concerned that Google seems to use cookies in my browser, and that they could link all the careers related pages I visit, maps I search, companies videos that I see on YouTube, and my Gmail. Could such a dossier be bought by my existing employer either independently or through some third-party online advertising agency? Can I really trust Gmail and Google products to go on my job hunt and at the same time keep healthy relations with my employer?

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    You can address the cookies problem by using incognito mode. Incognito mode doesn't store cookies or browser history beyond the current session. If you're feeling paranoid set up a second gmail account just for this purpose, and only log into it from incognito mode. Incognito mode is not perfect, but it certainly protects you from accidental discovery and casual snooping. – jhoyla Feb 19 '14 at 16:30

According to Google's privacy policy, they do not share personally identifiable information. Google has made their entire business on acting as an information gate keeper. You don't buy information about a person from Google, you buy either broad demographic information for analytic purposes or you buy access to have an ad displayed to demographics of your choosing.

You will probably notice that ads start showing up for job search sites when you access pages around the Internet, and it is possible that someone might notice that looking over your shoulder and put 2 and 2 together, but other than that, the information should be well protected by Google as it is not just your income stream in jeopardy but theirs as well.

For more details, I suggest you read Google's privacy policy to see what information they do and don't share.

Google does not sell personal information, no matter what conspiracy theorists will tell you. They don't read your email, and they don't watch your browsing history. Instead, automated processes do pattern matching to identify personal trends and then match ads to interests.

The distinction between Google "reading" your email versus having a computer match patterns against ads may seem like a trivial disctinction without a substantive difference to some people, but the difference couldn't be more clear than in this case:

Google doesn't know you're searching for a job. Google doesn't care whether your searching for a job. They don't even have a concept of "searching for a job." There is no "searching for a job" list that could be packaged and sold, nor is there a "buying a boat" list or a "recently divorced with two dogs" list or an "accident-prone skydivers with poor medical insurance" list.

But the keywords that you search for and which appear in certain activities match against keywords that job-related advertisers have expressed interest in. Google doesn't tell anyone this of course. Selling their core data would be a very poor business decision. Instead they show the ads to just the people who are interested in them, and collect a premium fee from the advertiser based on how valuable that interest is. At no point does the advertiser ever find out whom they advertised to unless you take some action on that ad to visit the advertiser.

But, if you're paranoid, then you can always use private browsing mode, or a second browser, or a virtual machine, or a read-only livecd to prevent traces of your interests from being associated with your identity. Each of these is effective in its own way and for its own purpose.

The advice here depends on your personal computer habits.

If you are very cautious, for example, you always lock your screen when it is unattended, and never let a friend use your login - in that case, you can use your main email account without concern.

If you are more typical, and leave your laptop unlocked at home, let trusted friends use your account - then you need to take more care. I recommend using a separate email account (possibly even a separate computer account) for sensitive things like job hunting.

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