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October 28, 2020

Private Browsing Not So Private

private browsingThe Internet–Going incognito, turning on private browsing, or denying location access might not be as anonymous as you think. The search engines have become increasingly intelligent in several areas, making it quite difficult to browse without leaving footprints of marketable data and personalization.

In a series of experiments conducted by one of the leading search engine optimization professionals in the country, it’s now clear that Google and Bing are gathering a lot of information about your internet usage and forming a profile of likely future behaviors.

“Even seemingly unrelated searches and behavior can modify the results, and I think this is Google showing their strength in pattern matching and machine learning.” —Rand Fishkin, SEOmoz

The search engines have scores of algorithms which are designed to perform many functions. One of course, is to display the most relevant results for a search query. But another is to detect user patterns and locations. By doing so, the search engines can filter results for a more personalized experience.

Even when location detection is turned off by an internet user, both Bing and Google attempt to use previous searches in order to determine a particular user’s geographical location. For instance, a person who has denied location access searches for a popular restaurant chain or name brand product. Previous searches for destinations in their locality tell the search engines where that user is and what that user is likely looking to find.

Semantics play another part in the algorithms. If a user searches for “penguin” and “”panda”, the search engines will recall previous searches performed by that user to determine if the results should include Google algorithmic updates, a nearby zoo, or children’s books with those animal characters.

While going into a private browsing session does prevent other users from seeing previous page visits and does not compile a history list, the data is nevertheless transferred to the search engines. These methodologies point to more savvy online search portals.

What do you think about the search engines tracking you? Let us know what you think in the comments section.