There’s No ‘Raw Information’ in Google Search, Competitor Survey Says

A small-sample study by search provider DuckDuckGo argues that even when users who are not signed in to a Google account use Google to search for political information, they get results that skew to what Google thinks they will agree with.

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duckduckgo, social search, google, search bubbleA small-sample study by search provider DuckDuckGo argues that even when users who are not signed in to a Google account use Google to search for political information, they get results that skew to what Google thinks they will agree with.

DuckDuckGo had 100 people search for same election topics at the same time, and the searchers got different results that appeared to reflect potential political leanings. For instance, one user searching for Obama was sent to Fox News, while another was sent to the L.A. Times.

Google has advocated for social search, linked to a user’s Gmail or Google+ account, by saying that users want customized information.

DuckDuckGo emphasizes that even when users are not logged in, Google seems to establish a user profile based on their “search and click history.”

Google didn’t immediately respond to a request to comment.

Politically, the issue is that an undecided voter may have his or her opinions nudged by information s/he thinks is unbiased but actually reflects Google’s guess at the user’s political leanings.

“You search for raw information, but you get more of what you already agree with,” the DuckDuckGo video says.

Of course, the video reporting the results is also an ad for DuckDuckGo, which hopes to capitalize on the fact that it doesn’t collect personal information on its users.

Update: A Google spokesperson pointed to a 2009 blog post to explain why the feature “is useful and how people can turn it off.”