google search engine


The Google Search Engine



tailor involved according to
athlete field (3) in my best interest
agenda monitor dumb-down
likely behavior preference
allow clean up customize
pitfall register pop (right) out
worry surprise coordinated
aware case (3) marathon
hit (3) relevant comfortable
vary assume depending on
cyborg account experiment
profile decease respective
set similar personalized
extent literacy impossible
filter compare intentional
wipe account long-distance
sweep track (2) practical
clarity deal (3) manually
media disclose sense (2)
benefit beware in your best interest
display operator cookie (2)
plus privacy attention






Dumb-down web searches. Google, Bing and Yahoo are tailoring search results according to the interests of individual users. But is that really in the users’ best interest?

Victoria Brandt is studying law in Berlin. When she enters the word “berlin” in Google, the first two results she gets are the official Berlin city website and then the Law Department at Berlin’s Humboldt University.

At the same time, same place, Victoria’s friend, Misha Heidenreich, an athlete, also searches for Berlin in Google. But his results are a bit different: one of his first hits is the Berlin Marathon’s website.

Search engines like Google and Bing have their own agenda — they monitor what you enter into the search field and track your behavior and preferences. That allows them to customize your search results and fast.

Victoria Brandt, Vision: to become a Lawyer: “I think it’s practical when I search for what I want, it’s great that it pops right out.”

Micha Heidenreich, Passion: Long-Distance Running: “I’m comfortable with it, though it’s a bit worrying that everything is so coordinated.”

Communication specialist Miriam Meckel thinks personalized online searches pose a big threat. And she believes most users are simply unaware of the pitfalls involved in using a search engine.

Miriam Meckel, Position: Professor at St. Gallen University: “When you and I type in the same word in Google, you would assume the same list of results because they are relevant and not-so relevant hits.

But that’s not the case: we get different results; they vary depending on how different or similar we are.”

Swiss author and media expert Felix Stalder experimented with search engines. He created Google accounts for three very famous, but deceased philosophers: one each for Kant, Nietzsche and Hegel.

Using their profiles, he searched for the respective philosophers’ writings. Then he searched for the same random word under all three profiles: “cyborg”.

What did he get?

Three different sets of results.

Felix Stalder, Position: Instructor at Zurich University of the Arts: “What really surprised me is the extent to which they are personalized and how impossible it is as an individual user to sense it.

Normally, we just don’t have something to compare it to, where we can see the difference. We just get search results from Google, and because the internet is so big, we think what we get is right and a good result.”

This means Google users unintentionally get a filtered view of the internet. The other search engines aren’t much better: Bing, Yahoo also personalize their results. And they save your searches, even if you haven’t registered for an account.

But there is a solution: free programs like Wipe and Sweepy remove your personalized data. Or you can always clean up your cookies manually.

Miriam Meckel, Position: Professor at St. Gallen University: “If I know Google is personalizing my results, then I can deal with it. We need to have clarity, something we used to call media literacy, to go along with technological developments.”

Starting in March, Google wants to start tracking all information account holders disclose: emails, calendars and downloaded texts would all be used to tailor searches.

But users beware: customized search results are not necessarily in your best interest.

They benefit the search engine operators and allow them to display the ads that are the most likely to get your attention.

The plus in using search engines is that they are free, but you end up paying with your data privacy.


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1. Search engine results are always based on websites’ rankings, such as the number of links it has to other websites and how popular they are. Is this entirely true, mostly true, partially true, yes and no, in the middle, generally false or entirely false?

2. If two people in the same room, entered “telephone” in Google at the same time on different devices, will they get the same listing? What happened in the example?

3. Describe the experiment conducted by the author.

4. According to the experts, are most people aware of tailored engine search results?

5. “Google users unintentionally get a filtered view of the internet.” What does this mean? Is this good, bad, both, in the middle, neither, it depends?

6. Can users safeguard against customized, tailored engine search results?

7. There is a price or trade off for internet users. Is this right or wrong?


A. I always use Google. Yes or no? What are some examples?

B. How do people feel about Google? Has it changed over the years?

C. I don’t trust Google; it is too big and powerful. Or, I don’t care.

D. Why might some people be very concerned about Google’s operations?

E. What might happen in the future?

F. What can or should people and governments do?

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