Time and time again, people have stressed how an individual’s privacy is being significantly violated without their knowledge. There has been speculation that everyone is being ‘watched’ and people have even started urging others to take measures such as taping the web cameras of their laptops to stay safe from prying eyes. With a recent study conducted by DuckDuckGo regarding the Google search results that we see, it seems the above-mentioned speculation might have some truth to it. The study reported that personalized search results are shown by Google through the claim is denied by Google!
As I’m sure you all know, for the most part, when you are browsing on Google, you are doing so as yourself as you are logged into your Gmail account. Regardless of which device you are using, once you have logged into Gmail and not logged out, Google will know you are making the searches. Owing to this, Google will give you personalized search results.
What Does This Mean Though?
Basically, when you enter some keywords into the search engine, the Google search results will be based on certain factors such as your location, previous searches, and history. While offering you personalized search results is something which Google has already admitted to doing, they haven’t said that the same effect will be there when you are browsing on Google, while incognito.
When you are incognito, it basically means that Google doesn’t know it is you and this is normally achieved by logging out of your Gmail account. Theoretically, you should not be receiving personalized search results in this situation. However, with the above-mentioned study that was conducted, researchers found otherwise, i.e. even when logged out the Google search results that were showing up were still tailored specifically for the searcher.
Follow the thread by the company behind the research, and read on to understand what it means:
Does Google manipulate your search results based on the troves of data it's collecting on you — even when signed out and in so-called "incognito" mode?
The results of our new study might surprise you, or maybe not:https://t.co/7zQu5yvOKi
— DuckDuckGo (@DuckDuckGo) December 4, 2018
How Did They Do This?
Well, using specific words such as ‘gun violence’, ‘immigration’ and ‘vaccines’ a group of 87 individuals were asked to share their Google search results, while incognito. What should have happened in an ideal situation is that all the results should be similar, with slight variations attributable to time differences. The opposite happened and they all still had personalized search results.
Don’t believe me? The figures speak for themselves. Approximately 68% of participants saw personalized search results for gun violence, 57% saw the same for immigration and an astounding 92% saw specific Google search results for the word ‘vaccines’. All this information has caused a bit of a stir in the technological world, with everyone questioning Google and wondering why this is happening.
In the face of this implicating news, Google hasn’t remained silent. They have denied this occurrence and have said that personalized search results are only set for those who are logged into their Google accounts and not those who are searching incognito. They have also called out the study for being inaccurate and have said that Google search results vary frequently based on several factors, which haven’t been taken into consideration by those carrying out the study.
Here’s what Google said, for those who want to know what they said exactly:
Over the years, a myth has developed that Google Search personalizes so much that for the same query, different people might get significantly different results from each other. This isn’t the case. Results can differ, but usually for non-personalized reasons. Let’s explore…
— Google SearchLiaison (@searchliaison) December 4, 2018
People aren’t sure how to react in the face of this interesting news, and most can just hope that the study is flawed.