As of May 2011, Google held %65 percent of the search market. Chances are you use it to search for news on the web, but are those searches a reflection of reality or are they filtered to fit into your own unique information or “filter” bubble. The problem isn’t just limited to Google, but most search engines and many other news portals customize your search results based on who you are, your previous searches, what you’ve previously clicked on, and your location.
Sure search result customization could be a good thing, but it can have the unintentional effect of moving up information that you tend to agree with and burying information that you don’t — like building confirmation bias right into your search results. An example would be somebody who prefers clicking on Fox News or Huffington post links might find more stories from these sites at the top of his news searches rather than other sources.
So what can you do to make sure you get unbiased results? According to Google’s Matt Cutts, if you are using Google you can add the string add “&pws=0″ to the end of your search results or use the Google Chrome browser’s incognito mode, but how many people are going remember this next time they are looking for information?
Another solution would be to use a search engine that doesn’t change the results based on personal information, one like DuckDuckGo. To see just how much your search results are personalized, do a vanity search on Google and then try one on DuckDuckGo. (Google makes me think I am much more popular than I actually am.)
This is just one more area where, as a skeptic, that you have to be careful about choosing your sources of information. I imagine most of the populace will probably just continue use Google to search the web and not realize they are living in a filter bubble.
1.) comScore, Inc. June 10th, 2011. comScore Releases May 2011 U.S. Search Engine Rankings. In comScore website. Retrieved June 24th 2011, from http://www.comscore.com/Press_Events/Press_Releases/2011/6/comScore_Releases_May_2011_U.S._Search_Engine_Rankings
2.) Young, Rob D. May 15th The Google “Filter Bubble” and Its Problems. In Search Engine Journal. Retrieved June 24th, 2011, from http://www.searchenginejournal.com/the-google-filter-bubble-and-its-problems/29879/
3.) Schwatz, Barry. June 21st, 2011. Duck! Google’s Cutts Responds To Search Filter Bubbles. In Search Engine Round Table. Retrieved June 24th, 2011, from http://www.seroundtable.com/google-search-bubble-response-13591.html