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Un-Google-able: What doesn't show up when you search the web?

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Updated January 19, 2019 12:00 PM EST

Editor's note: This story was first published Aug. 12, 2017.

SAN FRANCISCO (CIRCA) — Did you know when you search the internet, you're not actually searching the whole internet?

Google is the largest search service in the world. But even with trillions of websites indexed, Google’s search only covers about 4 percent of the net.

So, what exactly is the 96 percent of the internet that’s un-Google-able?

The "mysterious" Deep Web, as tech expert Shelly Palmer facetiously called it in an interview with Circa, is the internet that isn’t indexable by search engines.

"It's mostly private information that actually should be private and is set up to be that way," Palmer said.

Deep Web
When you search the internet with Google, the contents of the Deep Web—including the Dark Web—are left out. (Circa)

This is where things like hospital records or friends-only Facebook profiles exist. The majority of the content found in the Deep Web isn't as juicy as its name might lead on, but the part of the Deep Web known as the Dark Web is a different story. The sites there are typically anonymous and require a special browser to access, thus rendering them un-Google-able, in part, to hide the illegal or unsavory activity known to happen there.

When discussing the Dark Web, Palmer changed his tone: "It’s real, and bad stuff happens there ... money laundering, drug trafficking. You can go down the list of things that you don’t want to be found out about."

Of course, there are some public websites that facilitate illegal activity, too, but you wouldn’t know it because plenty of them are made un-Google-able by Google. The search giant, over the years, has got on board with censoring out search results for things like child pornography and some links to pirated media.

"The public internet is filled heterogeneously with gems and garbage. Almost all of that is searchable on Google."
Shelly Palmer, tech expert

Barry Janay, a New York City communications lawyer, told Circa that though it’s unclear exactly how much Google censors its search results, anything found to be directly facilitating illegal activity would breach Google's terms of service.

"I would say the web giants like Google will err on the side of caution rather than have massive fines imposed on them," he said.

And in addition to making illegal content un-Google-able, Google also takes requests by people to make themselves made un-Google-able.

The Right to Be Forgotten is already in place in Europe. If a citizen of the EU Googles himself and realizes he doesn't like the results that come up, he can demand Google take it down “where the interests in those results appearing are outweighed by the person's privacy rights,” according to the policy.

Fake news
Google has begun removing fake news from its search results. (AP Photo/Raphael Satter)

Despite the introduction of similar legislation in the U.S., no such law exists yet, though Google this year did, however, introduce tools that allow users to flag “fake news” to be made un-Google-able. But there's also a legal aspect to that, too.

"Defamation ... incorporates untrue statements. And right now, big news is what is truth and what is fake news," Janay broke down.

So, exactly how much web content are you actually getting by only surfing through Google? Probably plenty more than any law-abiding citizen would ever want, Palmer assured.

"The public internet is filled heterogeneously with gems and garbage. Almost all of that is searchable on Google."

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