Living in a Google Filter Bubble?

Currently there is a perception by some observers that Google casts a proverbial “filter bubble” over the internet. This interests me because what I may go to search for on Google and the result I actually get may differ considerable to someone else.

Living in a Google Filter Bubble?


Photo Credit: Indi Samarjiva, Flickr

Note from the Headboy: I originally published this article on the 24th September 2014 and since that time, as announced by Tech Radar on the 9th June, DuckDuckGo has now been approved by Apple.

Whilst I wouldn’t normally promote an article so short into one of my own, this helps highlight some of my points.

DuckDuckGo - Tech Radar

Find the article here.

A practical demonstration for you to try:

I am going to put a search term in and see what I get. See if you get the same as I do below.


Egypt Search, click to enlarge.

What always worries me is the zombie like motion that I perform to go to Google almost immediately for my searches. I can remember a time back in the old days when I used Metacrawler as my choice method of search but such times changed long ago.

I stumbled across DuckDuckGo by pure accident whilst using Opera (not Chrome) and was intrigued by the search engine. So much so that I started looking further and I was brought into view of the “Filter Bubble” phenomenon.

The filter bubble is a form of internet search censor with a commercial and popularity based science. If you want to read more on this have a look at this link (which opens in a new window).

Why is the filter bubble a bad thing?

It actually goes against what the search engine was built for. It is meant to bring us all topics of our search criteria. Filtering came about to improve the relevance but surely we should decide that relevance and not have it decided for us?

Important points that DuckDuckGo raise:

  • Based on how Google Profiles you, you are likely to get a biased view of a topic with less objectivity.
  • Useful information is demoted if it is not likely to be something that Google considers you may like (even if it has relevance to what you are looking for).

Of course DuckDuckGo is a rival to Google so we have to take what is said with a pinch of salt but we are aware that Google tracks and records information and uses a lot of its large weight to leverage for advertisers.


Big Brother/Uncle Sam

Google is recording every search we make and every click we take (does that sound like a Police song?). Oh can’t you see, what yer doin to me? 🙂

Do they have to pass this over to any government body who asks for the details? Yes they do.

I always had a counter argument to this. If you are doing nothing wrong then such information will never come back to bite you. If you are running for public office, just stop using the Internet altogether, then make a minion do it for you! In the UK we have to deal with a very large coverage of CCTV. This coverage would not be permissible in America because Americans are paranoid about central government. You’ve got the FBI, CIA for starters. If you happen to be an American, and you are for CCTV (Close Circuit Television), prove me wrong in the comments below. I expect silence.

If you are not guilty of anything, not doing anything you shouldn’t be, then what is there to worry about? Why cry for civil liberties when only those doing something they shouldn’t be are the ones caught? Any cry in protest puts you under the spotlight. Where there is smoke there is fire which leads to self-incrimination.


A note about J.D. Salinger


Of course there is nothing new about this. When people loaned The Catcher in the Rye from a library they would get flagged by a number of agencies but specifically the FBI. A large number of maniacs have assassinated people or gone on a shooting spree following the reading of this J. D. Salinger classic. Therefore this book was black flagged. There is dispute about this, it could well be a myth or it could be true, but if it is true why would the FBI say “Yes, we have files on those who loaned out J. D. Salinger books.”. Maybe just the threat is enough?

Of course, freedom of speech and expression is important; there is no harm in holding an opposing opinion unless you aim to do something terrible with it.

Note: As part of my spring clean on this post circa June 2014 I had to amend the title of the book so as not to enrage fans of J.D. Salinger and in addition it hasn’t been confirmed that people who read The Catcher in the Rye were ever submitted on the FBI list. It just so happens that a number of mass murderers (including the person who assassinated Kennedy) had read this book before hand. In fact, a lot of people have read this book so it is somewhat circumstantial. It is like claiming that all of the recent stickups, gangbangs and bank jobs are attributable to Grand Theft Auto with the same poor science application.


Our role as the agent – the profile, building a file on us

Increasingly we are becoming traceable agents. Profiling is nothing new but the technology has moved on considerably. I know this seems odd or left field but we retain an imprint online, we lay footprints in the snow, tracks in the mud. The problem is the tracks we leave retain personal details about us and insidious marketers rub their digital mitts at what we leave behind so that we can be haunted.

Have you noticed how you have a “Profile” in sites you join. Any place you put in your details is an area that can be logged. There are some places that logging is appropriate and others where it is not. Whilst they are using familiar terms, this is just a method of keeping you within the confines of the agency. You become a Google agent, a Yahoo agent or a Microsoft agent. You don’t get issued a gun but you do get issued a badge.

The trend of logging in has changed, more places want to use your Facebook details to sign you through. Microsoft like using the passport, Yahoo have similar passport requirements. They all seem desperate to lock you in some how, keep you in the franchise zone, herd you in their direction.


Fiverr’s login grubbing for the Facebook.

How do you feel about being in the bubble? Is it something you embrace or avoid? I personally am split after researching the problem a bit further. There is something to the problem of popular censoring.


2 Comments Living in a Google Filter Bubble?

    1. Jackson Davies

      Hey Ryan,

      I would say there is no harm to degoogling to some degree, it is never great to place your eggs in one basket and Google have been getting a little big cranky recently as many SEO experts and Youtube users will attest.


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