Google customizes further of its search results (Dec. 05, 2009) — For a lot of its users, Google offers Web search results that are tailored based on their preceding search history and clicks. For instance, if somebody constantly favors a particular sports site, Google will place that site high in the results when they search for sports topics in its search engine.

google_logoHowever there has at all times been one catch: people had to be signed in to a Google account to see such customization. On Friday Google said it was extending these modified search results, and the resultant enhancement in ad targeting, to people who are not logged into the service.

The latest service, according to a Google blog post, will make use of an anonymous cookie on a user’s computer to modify search results based on the user’s previous 180 days of search activity. A “view customizations” link will become visible on the top right of the search results page, and will guide to a clarification of how the results have been customized and how the feature can be turned off.

“Our goal is to offer related search results,” said Nathan Tyler, a Google spokesman. “The benefits that we’ve seen for signed-in users were so enormous we would like to extend those same benefits to everyone.”

But the transformation is already irking privacy advocates, who say that using Google while not logging in was one way to reduce exposure to its data-collection practices.

“The key point is that Google is now tracking users of search who have specifically chosen not to log in to a Google account,” said Marc Rotenberg, executive director of the Electronic Privacy Information Center in Washington. “They are obliterating one of the few outstanding privacy safeguards for Google services.”

In an assessment of the statement on the blog Search Engine Land, Danny Sullivan noted that there was no means for searchers or others to view the saved search records on Google, and that Google was giving people a chance to enduringly choose out of the arrangement.

“All the main search engines have long recorded what you search on. Google’s just using it to filter your results,” Mr. Sullivan wrote.

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