Here is a detailed description of Google’s SafeSearch feature and a walkthrough to disable it on Mac if it’s causing inconveniences.
What is SafeSearch?
SafeSearch is a feature geared toward filtering explicit results from Google search. In particular, it hides materials that contain violence or pornography. This is incredibly useful functionality for managed environments, such as enterprise or school networks in which users are not supposed to access NSFW content. It is also an important element of Google’s parental controls service called Family Link. If the corresponding app is running on a supervised device, SafeSearch is enabled by default if the user is under 13 years old. The web browsing restrictions can be set by a network admin or a Mac owner who wants to purge search results of links they deem inappropriate.
Why turn off SafeSearch?
As useful as it is, SafeSearch is not flawless. Its algorithms aren’t ultimately accurate in identifying content that doesn’t belong on search engine results pages (SERPs) viewed by a kid or an employee during the workday. Also, some users think its filtering can be blown out of proportion, in which case some materials are wrongfully flagged as explicit and relevant links aren’t displayed when you are looking for specific information. One more important aspect is that the service affects the freedom of finding and accessing websites. Nowadays, users dislike it when there are strings attached and other encroachments that hamper full-fledged web surfing routine.
In addition, this term has some shades of ambiguity when viewed from the cybersecurity angle. One of the long-running browser hijack campaigns involves Mac malware that redirects Safari, Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox, and other browsers to SafeSearch.net without permission. This is a junk page mimicking a typical search engine and trying to piggyback on the name of Google’s well-known content filtering feature in question. Its authors pursue illegal monetization of the intercepted Internet traffic.
On a side note, a similar massive browser redirect scheme involves a potentially unwanted application (PUA) that forces hits to Yahoo Search via affiliated garbage services like Safe Finder, Chill-Tab, Searchmine, Search Pulse, or TapuFind. This quandary is associated with APIs of ad networks, which allows the crooks in charge to convert their misdemeanor into profit. Yet another concern that fits the mold of a plot parasitizing legitimate search providers is the Bing redirect wave. It harnesses several notorious sites, such as SearchMarquis.com and SearchBaron.com, to forward the victim’s traffic in the wrong direction.
With that said, before deciding to turn off SafeSearch on Mac, it makes sense to distinguish between benign and malware-related implications of the issue. If malicious code has taken over your search preferences, it must be removed from the system. In the event you aren’t okay with Google’s filtering your search results to get explicit stuff out of the way, use the following method to deactivate it.
Why turn off SafeSearch?
If you feel like SafeSearch is imposing limitations on your web surfing experience, it’s very easy to turn off. Just follow the steps below.
- Open the Google homepage, click Settings at the bottom right, and select Search settings. Alternatively, you can click the gear icon in the upper right-hand corner of any search results page to access the same customizations.
- When on the Search Settings screen, find the section named SafeSearch filters. It includes a brief description of what this feature does. If you are sure you want to disable it, remove the checkmark from the box next to Turn on SafeSearch.
- Scroll down to the bottom of the page and click the Save button. This will put the new configuration into effect.
- To double-check if all went smooth and find out additional information about how this functionality works, consider clicking the Learn More link on the Search Settings page mentioned above.
- If the toggle next to the Explicit results filter option is in the off position, it means that adult materials and images of violence will be henceforth making it to your search results when you look for them. It’s easy to re-enable this setting at a later point if you so desire.