Google Search Might be Serving Personalized Results Even While Logged Out
We all know Google creates our personal profiles to serve personalized search results. If you don’t want personalized results, all you need to do is delete or disable web history, or simply log out of your Google account. However, a research by Google’s privacy-focused rival DuckDuckGo suggests that Google shows personalized results even while a person is logged out or using incognito mode.
In the study, DuckDuckGo compiled results from 87 US residents who searched for multiple sensitive keywords at the exact time in Incognito mode. Mind-bogglingly, DuckDuckGo found up to 73 variations (that’s 92%) in link placement in organic search, news, and videos section. Not only that, Google even showed up to 22 different domains to some of the users that weren’t shown to others at all.
Based on this study, DuckDuckGo claims that Google identifies users by using their IP address and browser fingerprinting and shows personalized results even in incognito mode.
Interestingly, Google immediately followed up on this study and called it false claiming that testing methods were faulty. Google says there are many factors that affect a user’s search results, and personal profiles are least of the factors affecting it.
Personalization doesn’t happen often & generally doesn’t dramatically change search results from one person to another. It is usually so lightly applied that the results are very similar to what someone would see without personalization…
Google went on saying “That’s often due to non-personalized reasons: location, language settings, platform & the dynamic nature of search…”.
Google also added that the way information is updated on their servers and the time it takes to do so also affects search results. Overall, Google denied all the claims of DuckDuckGo study by revealing how heavily non-personalized results affect search results.
DuckDuckGo claims were right or wrong is difficult to confirm. However, it is worth noting that DuckDuckGo tests involved same time, keywords, and country, and variation up to 92% seems a bit too much when so many important factors are same.