Monthly Archives: June 2006

Is google safesearch really safe?

I wonder how nobody noticed it? Most of us know that Google lets users choose Safe Search Filtering, but did we ever wonder if it works?

No, I am not talking about certain results that sneak in coz they can not be identified by Google’s algorithms.

Let’s try this: (warning: contains link to “explicit” content, user discretion advised)

1) Go to Google.com.

2) Click the preferences link, scroll down and choose the option Use strict filtering (Filter both explicit text and explicit images).

3) Search for the keyword “porn”.

4) Yay! you don’t see anything. Google is so cool that it shows “The word “porn” has been filtered from the search because Google SafeSearch is active.”

5) You think that google in your browser is safe and you can let your kids search stuff, …wait a minute and click this link (Warning: “explicit” content)

6) It wasn’t supposed to show anything? isn’t it?

What I did was just add “safe=off” in the query.

If this was not it, try these:

7) Below the search query, google shows “SafeSearch is off” click this or the “preferences”

8) Google shows that you are using “strict filtering”.

9) Go back to google.com, by hitting your browser’s back button.

10) We just confirmed that we were using “strict filtering”, go ahead and click the search button.

You will once again see that the results for the term “porn” still show. I understand it is because we have “safe=off” in the url, but why google at the first place even fetching the settings for “safe” in the url when we are hitting the search button on our browser?

This is hard to believe that google overides the settings in the cookie (or however they set them for the computer) with a simple query in the url. This means, that a simple url posted somewhere can show you stuff, which you believe that won’t be shown to you, since you have “set” it on your system. Your kids are perhaps not as safe as you think. I think this can bring Google some unwanted legal trouble.

I have ran all these steps on Firefox (1.5.0.4) and worked for me, if they are not the way I described them in any other browser, please let me know.