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Turning off Personalization... Can Anyone Prove it Works?
TheMadScientist




msg:4137124
 7:03 pm on May 22, 2010 (gmt 0)

People think clearing their cache, deleting cookies, and turning personalization off makes it so you get 'generic' results or Google can't tell it's you for personalization and you can then tell where you rank 'generally' right?

Check out Browser Fingerprints [webmasterworld.com] before you think they need that cookie to personalize those results for you, because my guess is they really don't.

IMO The preceding explains quite a bit about different results on different computers in the same room both with 'personalization turned off' and some other 'odd differences' or 'non-differences' in results people have been reporting here.

BTW: Huge thanks to Tangor for posting the linked thread.

 

tedster




msg:4137132
 7:35 pm on May 22, 2010 (gmt 0)

Yes, this is indeed a wake-up, isn't it? I just started thinking about everything that could combine to create a unique fingerprint - for example, how about the specific VERSION of every installed plug-in?

With regard to your title question, I do see the same results, even from from various computers, if the browser is logged in to any Google account and search history is also turned off for that particular Google account. I've tested this with a few other people's computers as well as my own. And no, that's not rigorous proof, but it's some good evidence.

TheMadScientist




msg:4137136
 7:42 pm on May 22, 2010 (gmt 0)

Yeah, I sure 'woke up' a bit when I started thinking about the original question and the threads I've read here being much more 'proof' they can still personalize even with personalization turned off and no cookies than it would prove they can't... Maybe they don't but I wouldn't bet on them not doing any 'stereotyping' of any kind based on the info they probably do have.

Kelowna




msg:4137154
 9:05 pm on May 22, 2010 (gmt 0)

The way I choose to check is to use a proxy, or better yet try your searches on search.aol.com or comcast.com to see if they show the same as you get on your local google... works great for me.

TheMadScientist




msg:4137164
 9:51 pm on May 22, 2010 (gmt 0)

So, Kelowna do you get the exact same results using the methods you describe as you do using what most people think will give the 'generic results' or are there variations between what you see with an empty cache and no cookies compared to what you see using a proxy, AOL or Comcast?

I just started thinking about everything that could combine to create a unique fingerprint

I think a list may be in order, so I'll start it off with some things I think could be used:

1.) Browser Configuration, Including: Plug-In Versions, UA String (which usually includes OS), Bookmarks
2.) Installed Fonts
3.) IP Address
4.) Geo-Targeting
5.) ISP
6.) Routing Information: EG Trace-Route?
7.) Similar Search Patterns
8.) Connection Speed

One of the interesting things is with some of these if you do something 'unique' to try and spoof, you create a 'unique' entry, which means you've identified your search pattern uniquely. IOW: If 'standard configurations' can be determined to be 'relatively unique' then a non-standard pattern will definitely be unique and should only add 'non-personalization' for the 1st use.

ISP + IP Address + Trace Route + Fonts = Interesting Combination (IMO)
(Some of the above are very difficult to spoof.)

Reno




msg:4137166
 10:05 pm on May 22, 2010 (gmt 0)

When I talk to people about the "fingerprints" they leave when they use the internet, I sometimes sit them down at my computer and show them what I know about my own website visitors using freely available software and/or websites (such as IP trace), along with my AWstats in the cpanel. That alone usually makes the person open their eyes. OK, now let's imagine what the NSA can do with their supercomputers, and what Google can almost certainly do with proprietary programs that are not announced to the public -- programs that analyze the oceans of data they gather every second -- no doubt makes "cookies" look like kindergarten toys.

...........................

TheMadScientist




msg:4137168
 10:22 pm on May 22, 2010 (gmt 0)

9.) HTTPS Information, Including: Cyphers Available, Session ID

TLS Handshake Basics from Wikipedia [en.wikipedia.org]

They're adding Encrypted Search [webmasterworld.com] for security puposes, right?

mirrornl




msg:4137324
 2:26 pm on May 23, 2010 (gmt 0)

i have no doubt i get 'generic results' if logged out of g accounts and webhistory turned off

londrum




msg:4137329
 2:35 pm on May 23, 2010 (gmt 0)

the fact that they've provided that special plugin for firefox/IE to stop you getting personalised results probably means they dont track you like that. otherwise that plugin is a waste of time.
can you imagine the fuss if it was found out they still had other ways to track you even after you blocked them.

indyank




msg:4137336
 2:52 pm on May 23, 2010 (gmt 0)

Well, I just read a few answers by Google employees to a few SEO questions here - [labnol.org ] (thanks to aristotle). This answer is quite interesting

"We work hard to provide high-quality search results. In many cases providing personalized search results can help to make them more relevant to you. Ads, however, are separate from natural search results, so I would assume that what you’ve seen here is a mere coincidence :-).

Rest assured that ads do not affect our natural search results."


So if you happen to visit sites by clicking those ads, they do get counted into your Personalized Search results. With google now giving more and more importance to personalized search and since majority of users may not really turn off personalized search, these sites are going to benefit.May be this is one indirect way by which Google provides benefits to these sites.

The same benefit applies to sites that syndicate news content to google and no wonder more and more blogs are now syndicating their content to google news.Unfortunately google gives more importance to factors like multi author blogs/sites, as a criteria for being included in google news rather than the quality of content and I see more and more blogs with badly written content in google news.

TheMadScientist




msg:4137371
 4:44 pm on May 23, 2010 (gmt 0)

i have no doubt i get 'generic results' if logged out of g accounts and webhistory turned off

Are you serious? You think all you need to do is turn off web history and log out and you're not getting personalized results?

I'm sorry, but you're sorely mistaken...
Personalized Search Now Default SEO and Privacy forever changed [webmasterworld.com] There was not a 500+ post thread here about this situation because logging out of your Google account turns off personalization.

the fact that they've provided that special plugin for firefox/IE

Seems to indicate you need a plugin and not simply a cookie clearing second, doesn't it?
When you're running the plugin, they probably don't 'personalize', they only 'mildly stereotype' then. LOL

[edited by: TheMadScientist at 5:00 pm (utc) on May 23, 2010]

mirrornl




msg:4137372
 4:54 pm on May 23, 2010 (gmt 0)

Are you serious? You think all you need to do is turn off web history and log out and you're not getting personalized results?

I'm sorry, but you're sorely mistaken...
Personalized Search Now Default SEO and Privacy forever changed [webmasterworld.com]

There was not a 500+ post thread here about this situation because logging out of your Google account turns off personalization.

i did read that whole thread with a lot of interest,
and i was worried as everybody was,
but not anymore..
I think all you need to do is turn off web history and log out and you're not getting personalized results

arizonadude




msg:4137380
 5:03 pm on May 23, 2010 (gmt 0)

Using private browsing as well also helps from what I understand.

TheMadScientist




msg:4137381
 5:04 pm on May 23, 2010 (gmt 0)

I think all you need to do is turn off web history and log out and you're not getting personalized results

So, they announce to the world you're completely wrong and you don't believe them... They make a plugin so you can turn off personalization and you still don't believe them... Feel free to think as you like, but that's an extremely naive, feel-good thought you have there, IMO.

mirrornl




msg:4137386
 5:20 pm on May 23, 2010 (gmt 0)

didnt londrum mean by plugin=the possibility to turn webhistory off?

TheMadScientist




msg:4137389
 5:37 pm on May 23, 2010 (gmt 0)

Turning your web history off is only supposed to disable personalization while you're logged in, not while you're logged out, which is supposed to make personalization only cookie based, so I'm not sure what londrum meant, but they're two different things... One is supposed to be based on your account settings, and the other is supposed to be cookie based.

mirrornl




msg:4137390
 5:40 pm on May 23, 2010 (gmt 0)

well, i might be naive from time to time and i'm not a scientist..
but
logging out and turning webhistory off works for me

edited to add: only my gmailaccount seems to give personalized results,
my analytics account seems to be "clean" from personalisation

TheMadScientist




msg:4137391
 5:49 pm on May 23, 2010 (gmt 0)

You could be right, but it seemed like you were saying the results were not personalized when you were logged out at all, and that's where I was thinking you were seriously mistaken, also, any time you delete your cookies if you turn it off the way you do (and it works) you need to do it again, because it's on by default, and maybe they don't show people differences in results, but do you really think they stop tracking you just because they don't show you the results of the tracking?

One of the reasons I asked the question is because my results don't appear to be 'personalized' *ever* because there's no difference between logged in and logged out and cookies and no cookies so IMO it looks like they're either all personalized or they're not personalized at all, and I wonder which it is?

I cannot prove turning personalization off works, because my results are the same either way and for there to be personalization / no personalization there would have to be a change in what I see wouldn't there?

If the results are always the same something is not working, IMO...

ADDED: I don't mean my results don't ever change by hitting different data centers, but I do mean if I click refresh a couple of times I can usually switch back and forth between one set and another, which is not personalization... It's simply hitting a different dataset.

mirrornl




msg:4137393
 6:05 pm on May 23, 2010 (gmt 0)

aha
any time you delete your cookies

i never delete my cookies

but do you really think they stop tracking you just because they don't show you the results of the tracking?

no, but the point was if we saw these "generic results"


One of the reasons I asked the question is because my results don't appear to be 'personalized' *ever* because there's no difference between logged in and logged out and cookies and no cookies so IMO it looks like they're either all personalized or they're not personalized at all, and I wonder which it is?

I cannot prove turning personalization off works, because my results are the same either way and for there to be personalization / no personalization there would have to be a change in what I see wouldn't there? If the results are always the same something is not working, IMO...


I think your results are not personalized at all,
otherwise you could tell for certain at first glance!
(try and find a computer of someone who doesnt know about all this, and do a search)

not all google accounts give personalized results

[edited by: mirrornl at 6:55 pm (utc) on May 23, 2010]

TheMadScientist




msg:4137399
 6:47 pm on May 23, 2010 (gmt 0)

i'm not a scientist

Hmmmm...
Maybe it depends on which definition you use whether I am or not?
Did you know the noun definition of science (in some references), which is a synonym for skill, is: 'The ability to produce a solution in a problem domain.', which just seems fitting with what I do for a living... LOL.

not all google accounts give personalized results

I've read not all searches are always supposed to be personalized, but nothing about some accounts not being personalized and if I'm logged out how does that have anything to do with my account?

mirrornl




msg:4137401
 6:54 pm on May 23, 2010 (gmt 0)

but nothing about some accounts not being personalized and if I'm logged out how does that have anything to do with my account?


This:
One of the reasons I asked the question is because my results don't appear to be 'personalized' *ever* because there's no difference between logged in and logged out and cookies and no cookies

TheMadScientist




msg:4137413
 7:44 pm on May 23, 2010 (gmt 0)

Might have to do with the searches I conduct on Google either logged in or out, but they don't say anything about there being some accounts without personalization applied to them in their 'documentation' anywhere I've read...

Also, if they continue to collect data but not show it people who 'turn personalization off' do you think it will affect results when personalization is turned back on, and is it better they continue to collect data without showing people a glimpse of the profile they're probably creating via the searches and clicks associated with whatever data collection they use or worse because people will probably be seriously mislead and think it means their searches and behavior won't be tracked but really are?

tedster




msg:4137415
 7:52 pm on May 23, 2010 (gmt 0)

The Google Dashboard at https://www.google.com/dashboard/ gives a summary of what data is stored in each account. The exact wording Google uses for turning off search history is "pausing it" - nothing builds up until you "un-pause" it, from what I can see.

TheMadScientist




msg:4137420
 8:07 pm on May 23, 2010 (gmt 0)

Yeah, tedster, but what really makes me 'wonder' about the whole topic is the ability to finger print a browser... That's not taking into account search patterns, location, IP Address or any of the other stuff they're able to track and on the surface what they say looks 'nice' and 'tame', but I keep thinking I need a new case of tinfoil to use Google any more, because there seem to be too many ways they could track and not show people even with the wording they use and the information that seems 'cool' could be a bit of a smoke screen, plus I remember them changing some important wording after the fact previously with the addition of the word 'almost' to the sentence about what a competitor can do to harm your rankings...

IDK, maybe I'm going too far with the whole thought and need to put the tinfoil down for a few minutes, but to me, personally, the whole thought is a bit concerning WRT privacy and the possibility of the whole presentation they're making being misleading to many people who don't even know some things are possible...

BTW: It's been a fun and interesting discussion IMO, so thanks to those who have been contributing!

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