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Ok so for example, I search "stackexchange" and a bunch of pages come up in the search result - of course most of them from this very site, and many other ones talking about stackexchange. Would this site, and the others that came up in the search, know my IP address even if I don't go to their sites? In other words, would Google notify them something like "IP address 1.234.56.6789 has typed "stackexchange" and your site came up in the search!"

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  • One thing is for sure: If it can be done, it is done. It's not that easy being Guy Fawkes these days.
    – ott--
    Commented Apr 18, 2015 at 21:15

4 Answers 4

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As far as Google is concerned, they only share non-personally identifiable information with their partners (publishers, advertisers or connected sites).

From Google's Privacy Policy:

We may share aggregated, non-personally identifiable information publicly and with our partners – like publishers, advertisers or connected sites. For example, we may share information publicly to show trends about the general use of our services.

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No, they wouldn't. That would be a serious breach of privacy. Of course if you click through on a link then at that point the site can tell your IP address and the search term that you used on Google, from their own logs.

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  • google only passes on the search term in a limited number of cases (only from non-https searches, I think). For the rest, it's set to not provided.
    – tim
    Commented Apr 18, 2015 at 19:09
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    @tim - if the site owner uses google analytics, you get the searched keywords from looking at the analytics. (You won't get them for each individual user straight from google; but if you say cross reference info from the time, user agent, etc with keyword searches you can match them up in your logs.
    – dr jimbob
    Commented Apr 18, 2015 at 20:30
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It's not the ip address that is important to advertisers. It's the unique individual that visits the site. Dynamically assigned ip addresses a la dialup/broadband, don't give the full picture, and the industry is concerned with definitive eyeballs. With that in mind, they probably don't do it.

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  • IP addresses also inform where the traffic is coming from (country, etc.) and that IS important to advertisers.
    – schroeder
    Commented Apr 19, 2015 at 0:29
  • Sure it is important to advertisers, but it's the data that is derived from it that is important, not the ip per se. So in any other terms, if you're able to obtain the information, the ip address itself is inconsequential.
    – munchkin
    Commented Apr 19, 2015 at 0:36
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In order for the site of a search result to know your IP address, somebody has to give them that IP address. And in theory, there are two ways that could happen:

  1. You visit the site, which requires you to share your IP address in order to make the connection
  2. The search engine sends the site your IP address

In practice, I'm fairly certain method #2 does not occur. If it did, there would have to be some standard for how the search engine shares your IP address with the website, and it would require some work on the part of the website operator; for example, they'd have to have a CGI script or something like that which could accept an HTTP request containing the IP address of the searcher. I've never heard of any standard like this, and even if there is, most website operators wouldn't implement it.

The other, probably more significant reason I'm pretty sure this method doesn't occur is that a search engine would then have to send an HTTP request for every single search result. HTTP requests to external websites are slow, at least compared to communication among the search company's internal servers, so sending these requests would increase the computational requirements of generating a search page by a large factor. Search companies don't want to waste this time performing a fairly unnecessary task, because the speed of the search is critical in their business.

As a workaround, the search company could save IP addresses and search results and prepare an e.g. monthly report containing that information, which they then offer to websites being searched for, but again, as far as I know, this doesn't happen. As a website operator, I can see data on search terms used to find my site, but not data on the IP addresses used to make those searches. It seems like a waste of hard drive space and disk I/O for the search company to keep these records.

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