Google’s Filter Bubble is a Scary Thing

I hate it when search engines give me the results that they think I want, instead of just giving me the results that I asked for …

Research on the Internet can be a tricky business these days, especially if you rely on a major search engine like Google or Bing. The main reason for this is a change to personalized search results that happened in the last few years. What’s bad about personalized search results you ask, a valid question. The problem is twofold. First, search engines use information they have about you, from previous searches, devices that you own, sites you like, purchases you make and every other imaginable activity to deliver personalized results to you. What this means is that you are likely to get results that you tend to agree with more than you are not.

If you are a supporter of Obama, you are likely to get pro-Obama results, if you are a conservative, you may get results from Fox News and not that many liberal news sources. While that may be reassuring for you as everyone seems to be agreeing with your point of view , it may make it more difficulty to educate yourself about a topic you are interested in.

google filter bubble

The creators of the DuckDuckGo search engine recently ran an experiment with more than 100 participants to find out more about Google’s filter bubble. For that, the company asked all participants to search for the terms gun control, Obama and abortion at the same time and make screenshots of the results.

The results show that search results are heavily personalized, both for logged in users but also for users who are not signed in to a Google account. Here is a short video that highlights the findings:

There is a second factor that may come into play. If search engines have the power to personalize search results, they may also influence your decisions based on what results they provide you with.

The reason for personalizing search results however is mundane at best: if you get results that you agree with or can relate to, you are more likely to like the search engine and keep using it in the future.

There are ways to get balanced news or information. One option is to use multiple search engines when you search on the Internet. Instead of relying solely on Google or Bing, you can use both and a third party search engine like DuckDuckGo or Yandex to diversify the search results.

What’s your take on the finding?

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