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Google Now Personalizes Search Results Based on Search Habits (logged in or not)

December 6, 2009

It seems that Google has found yet another way to spy on its users, if you believe in that.

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For a while now, Google has been using the search histories of its logged-in users to deliver better results through its Personalized Search feature. This convenient – or creepy, depending on your perspective – service is now available even to logged-out users. If you’re not logged in, though, where does Google save your search history? In an anonymous cookie, it turns out, with a Twinkie-esque shelf life of 180 days.

Personalized search is handy for bringing the sites you actually tend to visit to the top of your search results. That way, Google will know, for example, that you’re searching for Sox, the baseball team, and not the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, or Six Feet Under, the TV series, and not Six Feet Under, the band. To see how Google customized your results, look for a “view customizations” link at the top right of your search results. If you’re more concerned about privacy than convenience, you can opt right out of Personalized Search. Otherwise, it’s turned on by default.

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