Easy options for de-personalization

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Today I saw the start of a graphical ad campaign by DuckDuckGo aimed at explaining how search personalization creates a ‘bubble’ that traps your search ability. Here is the link to the ad-site if you want to give your brain a wash.

Mark Zuckerberg has been quoted as saying,

“a squirrel dying in your front yard may be more relevant to your interests right now than people dying in Africa.”

The heart of the matter isn’t new, TED’s got a pretty decent presentation from a ‘user’ perspective dating back to May 2011:
[jwplayer mediaid=”3446″]

So what’s DuckDuckGo squawking about?

I think it’s time to burst their bubble by taking a look at the options we have and why the suggestion of ‘try something new’ doesn’t really ‘fit the bill’. 😉

Bursting the Bubble Myth

It is very true that search engines know a lot of ways to customize search results based on information that the browser gives the sites you visit. You have some options depending on what you need to accomplish.

For every-day searches:

  • Use the browser you use the most often.
  • Your search results will be relevant to you if you use Google or Bing.
  • DDG results will be relevant to the way DDG thinks results should be filtered because they are avoiding personalization.

For research based searches in your location:

  • Use ‘incognito’ or ‘private browsing’ modes. (* see below for Google tip)
  • Your search results on major search engines will not be related to your personal tastes, just your location/language.
  • DDG won’t change search results according to their advertising.

For research that is not based on language or location:

  • Use a fresh browser, switch your language on a system level, and use a proxy to make your queries from multiple locations.
  • Search results will need to be combined and compared at this point because there will be differences each time.
  • From what we’ve seen, this level of unique information does elicit a variety of search results even from unbiased search engines because language and location are very large factors in search queries.

* When searching with Google you can add “&pws=0” to the search URL to see the search without personalization. This only turns off the ‘personalized web search’ function so the results will still be in your language and relevant to your location.

You could also add a short-cut to your browser so that you can search with personalization turned off by default, change the default language, location, etc..

While changing the search parameters is only ‘mostly effective’ I will be doing a follow-up post, complete with video guides, on how to do this and how to make it simple with shortcuts in the address bar.

If you still want to guess at the macro images from last month you aren’t too late. We are accepting guesses until we announce the winner next week, so feel free to go back to the old posts from last month and let us know what your little eye spies.

PS: There have been two versions of Minecraft 1.2x released today so far, some features weren’t even in the public builds so there’s some fresh bugs and features to explore. We have been waiting for this version to release to announce a new contest based on Minecraft! Stay tuned for full details in a post to come very soon!

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