How did my cell phone know this?

On my cell phone (Galaxy S7) I enter text in a Google bar on my home screen to find a web page. Places I have searched for previously are in a drop down list. Today I searched for a couple of things on my home computer. When I was out for dinner I went to search for something on the phone and the things I had searched for at home appeared? I have not synced the two or anything like that I can think of. I do charge the phone off the computer’s USB outlet.


My guess is that you were logged into the same Google account [like Gmail] on both devices.

yep, they “sync” things together … especially if you use chrome as a pc web browser… I can bring things up in both and continue reading a page on my tablet that i was reading on pc …

Now you can turn it off by clicking a little box in your options somewhere…

If you look at the top right of your browser window, assuming you are using Chrome, you will probably see your Google avatar (or your initial in a coloured circle if you haven’t set one up). If you click that it will say “Syncing to [your account]”. If you click again you can change the settings or turn it off.

Agree with previous posters. This is the tip of the iceberg, the visible part of what the large companies track about you.

For Google, it’s all the sites you’ve visited using the same browser as your GMail account, the subjects you’ve discussed in GMail, everything you’ve searched for in Google Search, the stuff you’ve watched on YouTube, all the places you’ve been to (if you have location tracking enabled on your phone, like most people). The only thing protecting you from abuse is Google’s code of conduct. I don’t think they’ll sell this info with your name on it to a third party, but they will use it to aim advertising very precisely. It’s their business model.

Facebook, of course, tracks everything about what you do in Facebook. But if you’ve ever logged onto Facebook on a computer, Facebook can also track almost all the sites you visit using the same browser (when the blue “Like” icon appears in a corner of any Web page, it’s being displayed by Facebook itself; you don’t have to click it for the tracking to occur). And then Facebook can use that to aim advertising, etc. The only thing protecting you from abuse is Facebook’s code of conduct (bwahahaha!).

(Quoting myself, so the bolding is obviously mine.)
This being GQ, let me retract/refine the assertion about GMail content being scanned: I was not claiming that Google employees could freely read your mail, just that it was scanned by automated processes. I just found out that Google announced in 2017 that they would stop scanning personal GMail later that year, at least for ad targeting. It’s unclear how much scanning is still occurring.

It’s definitely the Google account. Supposedly you can turn off the history:

But whether that really turns it off or just quits showing it to you is hard to determine.

Yes, it’s because they’re on the same google account.
A few ways to avoid this are to take one of the devices (probably the home computer) and either set it up with a new gmail address or just stay logged out of gmail.

I learned this a few years back when I looked up an address on my work computer and a few hours later when I got in my car to go home my phone popped up with a notification telling me how long it would take to drive to that address.

Also, when searches on my home computer (or phone) would appear in purple/autofill at work, I set up a second address. Not that I’m looking up anything I shouldn’t be at home, but when I google something at work/for work with someone over my shoulder, it’s really none of their business what I look up at home.

And, for an extra measure, if I’m looking up something that I really don’t want people to know I’m looking up, I use private/incognito mode, regardless of where I am.

Yeah, google. But here’s the scary bit:* It doesn’t have to the the same google account for google to make the connection!*

I had an instance of this a few months back. I was watching YouTube through an app on my TV, signed in with a YouTube account that’s linked to my personal gmail account, when an advert popped up for Rohde & Schwarz spectrum analysers. Now these are very specialised pieces of electronic test gear, generally used for electro-magnetic compliance (EMC) testing; they’re also very expensive, ranging in price from the cost of a nice car to the cost of a house, and as such the chance of an electronic engineer being in a position to buy one (even through their workplace) is very small, and the chance of a random YouTube viewer being in a position to buy one is effectively zero. This ad was obviously targeted directly at me, but at no point in my personal gmail account had I mentioned EMC or spectrum analysers, and I hadn’t been watching any YouTube videos on the subject.

I dug a little deeper and found the connection: I had been doing some EMC testing for work in the previous few weeks, and discussing same on my (non-gmail) work email; these emails were forwarded to my business gmail account (not linked to YouTube), and there was also non-EMC-related correspondence between my personal and business gmail accounts. Also both these gmail accounts are in my name, and share the same contact phone number.

So, in summary - YouTube (owned by google) has been trawling the metadata and knows that the same person owns my personal and business gmail accounts as they’re linked by my name and phone number (with the link being reinforced by communication between the two accounts), and it’s flagged up that I’m involved in EMC testing by reading the emails sent to my business gmail account from a corporate non-gmail account, and from there YouTube is able to momentarily freak me out by showing me very, very specific advertising in the middle of a Fail video binge or whatever.

You could be right. But not long ago, I wanted to test this theory. I composed several emails that included some topics that any person might want to share with others. I sent them to various accounts (all controlled by me, but none were gmail), and varied the wording. The topics were chosen as something I never have occasion to talk about IRL, ever. I was expecting to get targeted ads over the next few days or weeks that would clearly suggest Google was reading either my mail or my computer. It would be pretty obvious.

Nothing, over several months. I can only conclude that Google is not reading my mail, at least not yet.

You have to assume that Google collects all the data about you it can.

Another thing: Internet is not anonymous. By definition.
Using “incognito mode” does not help since every network packet coming from your computer has your IP address attached to it.
That’s just how Internet Protocol is designed to work.
This means webpages can easily connect the usage made from “incognito mode” to the one from “normal mode”. I’m not saying they do, since usually there is no financial incentive, I’m just saying they could and it takes almost no effort.

Google Chrome does even read pages you currently browse to improve your search suggestions… Does it send this info to Google servers? I don’t know, but it definitely could and there is no effective way to stop it (other than not using it).

Using private mode doesn’t do a whole lot to restrict google from knowing what you’re up to, true. But it does still have some advantages. The private window won’t be signed into gmail (or anything else for that matter, ie facebook, youtube, yahoo), also, no cookies will be saved to your computer during that time.
So, yes, google will still know what you are googling, but it won’t be connected to your gmail account, at least not in a way that they can rub it in your face.