Google Opens Personalized Results to All
Google risked drawing the ire of privacy advocates Dec. 4 by making its personalized search results available to all of its users, whether they are signed in or not. Personalized results were previously served only to users who were signed into their Google account and had opted in to let Google track their Web History, or log of search queries and results. Going forward, personalized results will be offered to users whether they are signed in or not. By hedging the privacy quotient in Web search, Google is setting itself up for some loud barking by privacy watchdogs who already feel Google takes too many liberties with users' info.Google risked drawing the ire of privacy advocates Dec. 4 by making its personalized search results available to all of its users, whether they are signed in or not. Personalized search results take into account Google users' search queries and clicks over time and attempt to surface results the algorithm feels will be more relevant and useful to users.
So, users who frequently search for Ruby Tuesday will likely see that restaurant and eateries like it higher in search results because Google has assigned a greater ranking for them based on users' activity.
"It's completely separate from your Google Account and Web History (which are only available to signed-in users). You'll know when we customize results because a 'View customizations' link will appear on the top right of the search results page. Clicking the link will let you see how we've customized your results and also let you turn off this type of customization."Users who elect not to receive personalized results while signed in must turn off Web History and remove it from their Google account. To do that, users must be signed into their account. They then must click the My Account link from the Google homepage, click Edit next to "My products" and then click Delete Web History. Google explains how this all works in this short video. For more details, Danny Sullivan's post on Search Engine Land is the best read. While Google is being very clear and transparent about how this all works and how to obliterate search history entirely, it doesn't explain that the goal is to position Google's search experience in such a way as to serve users more relevant ads, enabling Google to make more money. By hedging the privacy quotient in Web search, Google is setting itself up for some loud barking by privacy watchdogs who already feel Google takes too many liberties with users' info. For example, Google provoked more criticisms than compliments with its Google Dashboard announcement last month, and that service was designed to give users more control over their Google data. It's already started. Marc Rotenberg, executive director of the Electronic Privacy Information Center in Washington, told the New York Times:
"The key point is that Google is now tracking users of search who have specifically chosen not to log in to a Google account. They are obliterating one of the few remaining privacy safeguards for Google services."With each baby step, Google is tempting fate with agencies such as the Department of Justice, which is increasingly scrutinizing the company's behavior regarding its search and other Web services, such as the Google Book Search deal.