Locking Google SafeSearch

How to lock Google SafeSearch, thereby blocking searches for adult content.

INTRODUCTION
Or, pondering the moral ambiguity of loathing that which I must do
I believe in unfettered access to information, including material I disagree with or find objectionable. I believe that censorship does more harm than good, even when — perhaps especially when — it is done for the alleged good of the victim. So why am I documenting how to censor? Two words: community standards. In my day job I’m a librarian in a community where it is taken for granted that internet kiosks in view of children will have adult content filters. So either I filter the kiosks or ban children from the library, and in my opinion the former is the lesser of two evils.

Another problem is that the method described below enables Google’s persistent cookies in every browser, allowing Google to silently track our patrons. Personally I find this far more disturbing than the occasional titty flash, and I have taken the effort to configure our kiosks to use by default a search engine more respectful of users’ privacy. But some of our patrons nonetheless prefer Google, and I am just as obligated to respect their preferences as their privacy. So:

DOING IT
Open a browser on a computer on which you wish to lock Google SafeSearch. Go to google.com and click on “Sign In” in the top right corner of the viewport. If you or your institution have a Google account, sign in now, unchecking “stay signed in”.

If not, create an account: click on “Sign Up” in the top right corner and follow the instructions. Do not sign out.

Go to Google’s search preferences page.

If you see a warning message advising you that you must enable cookies, do so now. How this is done is browser-specific:

  • Firefox: Open Menu Button > Preferences > Preferences > Privacy. In the History – Accept Cookies section, press the Exceptions button. Add google.com and set its state to Permit. Save your settings and close the dialogs.

Reload Google’s preferences page; the warning should disappear.

On Google’s preferences page, enable “Filter explicit results” and press “Lock SafeSearch”. Save your settings. Log out of your Google account.

Now, test: Go to Google’s search page and perform any search. You should see a message in the top right corner indicating that SafeSearch is on and locked. Locking SafeSearch in google.com is supposed to apply to all of Google’s national and regional portals, but my experience is that it often does not. I repeat the test, substituting my country’s top level domain for “.com”. If it fails, go to that TLD’s search preferences page and repeat the configuration.

Repeat all of the above on every other browser on the computer, and on every other computer on which you wish to lock Google SafeSearch.

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About Warren Post

So far: Customer support guy, jungle guide, IT consultant, beach bum, entrepreneur, teacher, diplomat, over-enthusiastic cyclist. Tomorrow: who knows?
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