Personalization of search results runs deep in all of Google’s software products. Based on results from your search history, location and every single search link you might have clicked, Google serves a customized experience that might create a filter bubble for users.
Avoiding this filter bubble has become more difficult over the years, and now a study conducted by DuckDuckGo claims that avoiding personalization in Google Search isn’t possible even if you are logged out of your Google account or using incognito mode.
This study was conducted in June 2018 at the height of the U.S. midterm election season. The goal was to confirm whether Google’s search results intensify the problem of ideological bubbles by providing only a certain type of information based on your search behavior in the past.
According to DuckDuckGo’s study, Google search results vary significantly from person to person, even in private browsing mode.
Participants in the study saw different search results while searching for three different terms — gun control, immigration, vaccinations.
DuckDuckGo says that “these discrepancies could not be explained by changes in location, time, by being logged in to Google, or by Google testing algorithm changes to a small subset of users.”
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The company says it controlled for location by treating local results from different regions as identical. “Interestingly, this adjustment didn’t affect overall variation significantly,” the study reads.
Even though there are chances that DuckDuckGo’s conclusion may be biased being Google’s competitor and the fact that they gain something by pointing out the flaws in Google’s approach.
But the findings of this study are nonetheless interesting because they describe exactly how much difference exists in Google search results, even when you factor in parameters like location.