[IRP] NY Times - Google Expands User Profiling
Sat Dec 5 13:41:52 EET 2009
December 4, 2009, 7:42 pm
Google Customizes More of Its Search Results
By BRAD STONE
For many of its users, Google offers Web search results that are
customized based on their previous search history and clicks. For
example, if someone consistently favors a particular sports site,
Google will put that site high in the results when they look up
sports topics in its search engine.
But there has always 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 personalized search
results, and the resulting improvement in ad targeting, to people
who are not logged into the service.
The new service, according to a Google blog post, will use an
anonymous cookie on a user?s computer to customize search results
based on the user?s last 180 days of search activity. A ?view
customizations? link will appear on the top right of the search
results page, and will lead to an explanation of how the results
have been tailored and how the feature can be turned off.
?Our goal is to provide relevant search results,? said Nathan Tyler,
a Google spokesman. ?The benefits that we?ve seen for signed-in
users were so great we want to extend those same benefits to
But the change is already irking privacy advocates, who say that
using Google while not logging in was one way to minimize 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 remaining privacy safeguards for Google services.?
In an evaluation of the announcement on the blog Search Engine Land,
Danny Sullivan noted that there was no way for searchers or others
to view the saved search records on Google, and that Google was
giving people the opportunity to permanently opt out of the
?All the major search engines have long recorded what you search on.
Google?s simply using it to refine your results,? Mr. Sullivan
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