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Users in an incognito window cannot escape the algorithms of Google Search. That suggests an investigation by competitor DuckDuckGo (DDG), reports TechCrunch. Even logged out users of the search engine who also surf in incognito mode cannot prevent their online activity from being used by Google in the search results shown.

DDG says it found significant variations in the search results, with most survey participants seeing results that were only visible to them. Some saw links that others didn’t. In addition, results in infoboxes with news and videos varied significantly. Leared out users in incognito windows saw fewer different results.

A total of 87 volunteers in the United States took part in the study. They were asked to look for politically charged topics such as “gun control”, “immigration” and “vaccinations”. They did so at the same time on 24 June this year. The volunteers searched first in an incognito window without being logged in, and then again in a normal window.

The results were ultimately based on 76 users, because the people who searched on smartphones were excluded from the study. This was because there was a significant variation in the number of infoboxes shown.


In the subject “gun control” there were 62 variations in the searches and 68 percent saw unique results. “Immigration” yielded 57 variations of which 57 percent saw unique results. In the field of “vaccinations” there were 73 variations and 92 percent saw unique results.

In normal mode, the differences are not large. “Gun control came out at 58 variations and 59 percent saw unique results. In the case of “immigration” it was 59 and 63 percent, and in the case of “vaccinations” 73 and 92 percent. DDG states that search results without real prejudices and assumptions should come with almost the same results. But that was not the case.

“Without a filter bubble, you’d expect to see few variations of the search result pages – almost everyone would see the same set of results. But most people saw unique results. We also discovered the same variation in surfing incognito mode and without being logged in as in normal mode,” says DDG.

“We often hear confusion that the incognito mode allows anonymity on the Internet, but these results show that Google matches search results to you, no matter how you use the browser. People should not be misled into a false sense of security.”

Reaction Google

Google itself has responded by saying that DDG’s research “contains errors”. According to the company, various factors can contribute to variations in search results, including different locations. In addition, the results could differ depending on which data center was connected to the user entering a job.

This news article was automatically translated from Dutch to give Techzine.eu a head start. All news articles after September 1, 2019 are written in native English and NOT translated. All our background stories are written in native English as well. For more information read our launch article.