Skip to main content

Google: The Filter Bubble and Tracking

What Is the Filter Bubble?

The Filter Bubble is a term that refers to the bubble we're in on the internet. When you use Google, unless you take the precautions listed below, you receive personalized search results based on your search history and other user information. Yahoo News, Facebook, Netflix, YouTube, and other sites deliver personalized results based on your interests, but they leave out important information and news. Watch the video below for more information about the Filter Bubble, and follow the directions on this page to help avoid it.

How to Avoid the Filter Bubble and Reduce Tracking

1. Sign out of Google before searching.

  • Log out of gmail and other Google accounts before doing a Google search.

2. Turn off your Google Web History

  • With Web History enabled, Google keeps your records indefintely.
  • With it disabled, it makes them partially anonymous after 18 months and you will not get customized search results.
  • Google can still gather and store your personal information, use it internally, and release it to law enforcement.

3. Turn off search history personalization

4. Opt out of Google's ad settings, and review and edit the demographic information Google has about you.

5. Using private browsing, like  Chrome's incognito mode and Firefox Private Browsing, will keep some of your information private. But your browser and internet provider still have access to a lot of your data, even when using private or incognito mode.

6. Try a search engine that doesn't track or filter--see the Alternatives to Google tab in this guide for more information.

7. If you're very concerned about tracking, you can also use a browser extension/add-on that will disable ads or tracking. When you disable tracking, websites like Google, Facebook, and Yahoo News are unable to follow your reading habits across the internet. This can help you avoid the Filter Bubble. There are many extensions available, but these are some of the more common and easy to use options.

  • AdBlockPlus stops ads from appearing on websites, as well as stopping the codes that send your data to third-party websites.
  • Disconnect Private Browsing protects you from malware and malvertising, and prevents cookies and tracking by websites like Google, Facebook, and Twitter.
  • Privacy Badger, a free add-on from the nonprofit Electronic Frontier Foundation, blocks third-party tracking (it doesn't prevent the site you're on from tracking you), and some ads. Privacy Badger was specifically designed with privacy in mind, but is only available for Chrome and Firefox.

 

See the Electronic Frontier Foundation web site for more information on Google search history and online privacy in general.

The Online Filter Bubble

The downside of personalized search results...

Google, the Filter Bubble, and Tracking

Google collects data about you and uses it to customize your search results. Here's Google's introduction to Search History Personalization.

  • That's why if you and a friend do identical Google searches, you'll often get different results.
  • Personal results can be helpful but also put you in a bubble, making it harder to discover new ideas or opinions.

Google also stores information about your searches and makes it available to others, including governments and courts.

Learn more about the Filter Bubble