13th February 2007

You, me, and the guy next door now all see different search results in Google.

That is, assuming we’ve all “signed in” to our Google home page, or used the news reader, checked our Gmail account, Google Maps, or any of the other Google services many of us rely on every day.

Unless we’ve “signed out”, then Google now shows our search results “personalized” by default, and there appears to be no way to turn that off. (Someone please comment if I’m wrong here!)

Up until a week ago, there was a text link visible to the right of the search button, to “turn off personal search results”, and I frequently did so, watching the results change before my eyes.

Suddenly today, I’m having odd results with a certain search, and when I went to turn off the “personalized search”, I noticed the link was gone. I went into the advanced options and the preferences of my Google account, but found no way to turn it off.

A quick search brought up an immediate result, telling me how to disable it, but that Google Answers page was now not found any longer. I was able to look at the cache, dated February 7th, and it said this…

Any time you’d like to get standard results for a search, you can simply click the “Turn OFF Personalized Search for these results” link on the search results page. This link will only appear when the standard results would differ from your personalized search results; if you don’t see the link, that means you’re already receiving standard results.

If you’d like to remove Personalized Search entirely, click on “My Account” at the top of the Google homepage and choose “Delete Personalized Search” from the left menu.

Since “Delete Personalized Search” was not on my left menu anymore, I continued to search, and ran across Michael Gray’s post of just two weeks ago, where he was accurately describing the problem.

In his post, he gave a link to a page that was supposed to be able to help you turn it off, and he even showed a screen shot, where it said “you are trying to remove personalized search”.

Today however, that same Google page warns only that you’re trying to remove your search history, and makes no mention of personalized search.

I want to stop using “personalized search”, and it appears that there’s no way to turn it off. Can this be right? No it can’t… this is just plain wrong.

On February 8th, Michael Gray made another post titled “Personalized Search – The Feature No one is Asking For” where he says this…

In all of my thousands of searches over multiple years I’ve never said, “hmmmm, you know what would make this results page better” If Google was to give me completely different results than the guy next to me, boy that would be just swell.

…and I have to agree with his sarcasm. Google needs to let us CHOOSE whether we want this intrusion, not cram it down our throats.

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