By Melissa Randall

Email: mrandall@abc6.com

Twitter: @MRandallABC6

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WLNE) – We've all done it. You have a cough, a rash, or some other symptom, and you feel the need to run it by "Doctor Google".

“I think people have the perception it’s anonymous”, says Nick Tella, Director of Information Security at Johnson and Wales University “But really it isn't.”

Tella says there's always someone in the background collecting information on you.

“These so called data brokers”, he says, “are creating profiles on us as individuals”.

According to a consumer reports survey, 65 percent of Americans used an internet search or went on medical websites to look up a condition. One third of them had no idea that those searches could be stored and shared with third parties like Facebook or Bing.

The main goal is to target you with ads, but it also opens the doors to thieves trying to steal your medical identity.

“We're at the mercy of the security of the third party providers”, says Tella. “The more data they're collecting on us, the more they're targeted by hackers.”

So how do you protect yourself? Tella says there are changes you can make to your browser to search anonymously, but those will only do so much to help with security.

“There's really nothing that's 100%”, he says. “If we're on the internet, there's an ability for us to be tracked.”

In addition to the privacy concerns “Doctor Google” also doesn't have a medical degree. So it's always best to skip the search and instead speak with your primary care physician.

©WLNE-TV / ABC6 2018