San Francisco Google Inc. is experimenting with a new feature that enables the users of its on-line search engine to see all of their past search requests and results, creating a computer peephole that could prove as embarrassing as it is helpful.
Activating Google's "My Search History" service, unveiled Wednesday afternoon at http://labs.google.com, requires users to create a personal login with a password. Users of Google's e-mail, discussion groups and answer services can simply use their existing log-ins.
The service allows users to decide if they want Google to automatically recognize them without having to log in each time they use the same computer. Those who prefer to log in on each visit can use a link that will appear in the right-hand corner of Google's home page.
Whenever a user is logged in, Google will provide a detailed look at all their past search activity. The service also includes a "pause" feature that prevents it from being displayed in the index.
Users will be able to pinpoint a search conducted on a particular day, using a calendar that's displayed on the history page. The service sometimes will point out a past search result related to a new search request.
Google is hoping the service becomes so valuable that people will use its search engine even more frequently than they already do, giving the company more opportunities to display text-based ads that boost its profits.
"We think there is some value in providing people with visibility into their past activity on Google," said Marissa Mayer, the company's director of consumer Web products.
But privacy rights expert Pam Dixon is worried the service will make it easier for mischief makers, snoops and perhaps even the government to get their hands on a user's entire search history.
"It's really a bad idea," said Ms. Dixon, executive director of the World Privacy Forum. "If you need to keep track of your past searches, I