Google has denied that personalisation creates “filter bubbles” for users entering queries into search after a study released by DuckDuckGo suggested that relevance algorithms are reinforcing certain beliefs and biases and shielding people from alternative opinions.
DuckDuckGo studied 87 US adults earlier this year, each of whom entered three separate queries into search at exactly the same time. They also used Google’s incognito mode and a standard non-browsing mode to determine whether the content served up was different.
The results showed that users got search results unique to their preferences, even when they were logged out of their Google accounts. Certain users were also able to access links that were not available for others in the study, while news and video infoboxes were also different.
DuckDuckGo said that the study shows that Google’s push for personalisation is creating a “filter bubble” for SERPs. However, the tech giant responded in midweek by claiming that the study was flawed and that the notion that certain people can access different results without using an account is a “myth”.
In a statement, a Google spokesperson said: “This study’s methodology and conclusions are flawed since they are based on the assumption that any difference in search results are based on personalization. That is simply not true. In fact, there are a number of factors that can lead to slight differences, including time and location, which this study doesn’t appear to have controlled for effectively.”
Google’s Danny Sullivan noted on Twitter that search results can also differ depending on factors such as language, platforms and settings.