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Google search customization

Do you want to get some privacy and tell Google you don’t want them to spy on you? There have been people asking how to do this with a browser plug-in, but the manual method to depersonalizing your searches works better.

The Google support site provides information on the way they collect and use your information to provide a more personalized search results when you look for something. However, they also provide a how-to that tells you how to restrict who gets to see your results, the results you get to see, and even customize it in various ways.

An obvious method to prevent the personalized searches is simply by using your browser’s private or incognito mode.

Chrome incognito mode

If you are a fan of Chrome, you just click on the settings icon and then click ‘New Incognito Window’, or you can also open it with Ctrl+Shift+N or Command+Shift+N for Mac users.

If you use Firefox, click Tools, then Start Private Browsing, or you can open it with Ctrl+Shift+P or Command+Shift+P for Mac users.

For Internet Explorer users, you click Settings, then click on Safety, then InPrivate Browsing, or you can open with Ctrl+Shift+P.

For Safari users, you will find the private browsing option in the main drop-down menu.

Keep in mind that even after enabling the private browsing option in your browser, once you are logged out, Google may continue providing personalized searches to a point because of your cookies still being active. Below are some options for managing cookies.

One click to turn personalized search off

Google search hide personalized results

If you have a Google account and you’re logged in when searching, simply click on the globe icon located in the top right corner of your browser. This will allow you to see the version of search results. By clicking on the person icon, you can toggle the results which were filtered using your web history, your location and even your device and other information by Google.

A quick test that compared both the generic and personalized search results of 25 various searches found that there were only a few of the top results changed for many of them. Several of the searches showed no change in the top ten of the results, with or without the personalized setting preference.

After disabling the setting, there were only 3 out of 25 terms which yielded different results. The largest difference with the generic and personalized search results came from terms and phrases that had previously been searched.

Turning off personalized results via Google Search settings Google search search settings

Each time you open the Google search window, it automatically wants to personalize the searches, even if you had previously set the “hide personal results” option. If you don’t want the hassle of doing this each time you open your browser, simply click on the settings icon, then go to Search Settings, here you will go down until you see Private results and select “Do not use private results.”

Google search settings private results

Keep in mind that disabling the private results will not keep the searches from being saved in your browser’s history. In order to stop your searches from being saved, you need to go back into the settings while logged into your Google account and choose Web History.

Google search activity control 1 Google search activity control 2

From here you can click on the Pause history button. If you prefer, there are options for removing your history as well. To turn the feature back on, just repeat the sets and click on Resume.

How to delete your cookies in just one move

Deleting your cookies can be the easiest way to be sure you are being shown generic results instead of personalized results. By removing the browser cookies, you are removing previous traces left on your browser. Google has instructions on how you can remove them from Chrome, Internet Explorer, Safari, Opera and Firefox.

However, Google along with just about any website you visit adds some type of cookie to your browser upon visiting. By simply blocking all cookies, including first- and third-party sites would make the web rather useless as they are used for different reasons. An alternative is to simply choose for the browser to delete them upon closing out the browser.

Chrome Settings to delete cookies 1

Chrome Settings to delete cookies 2

In order to set this up in Chrome, simply go to Settings, then click “Show advanced settings” and click Content Settings. Here you will choose to clear cookies when you exit the browser.

In Firefox on a Windows PC, go to Tools, then Options and look for Privacy. If you’re a Mac user, open up your Preferences window, then choose Privacy. You will then see an option for custom history settings in the menu. If you can’t see the menu then hit Alt. You will select to clear history when Firefox closes, then hit Settings. Here you will choose which options you want to clear upon exiting. Choose cookies and any other information you want deleted each time the browser is closed.

For Internet Explorer you should click Tools, Options, General. Here you choose to delete history when exiting. If you can’t see the main menu, hit Alt.

Opting out of Google’s cookies

If you don’t want to simply delete all your cookies upon exiting your browser, there is another method. Google allows you to simply opt out of their tracking cookie. To do this, sign out of your account with Google, click on settings and navigate to Web History. You will then choose “Disable customizations based on search history.”

This feature is controlled with Google cookies. If you have set your browser to delete cookies upon exiting, you need to add the Google cookie to your exceptions list. To do this, follow the same steps for clearing cookies.

In Chrome, go to Manage Exceptions and put “Hostname Pattern” within the Content Settings dialog area. Then you want to select Allow, then in the menu and type in “[*.google.com]” under Hostname Pattern, without using the quote marks. This sets an exception for all Google Cookies. There’s more info about this on Google support site.

Creating a depersonalized Google search

In Chrome, you can use your own version of Google search which allows you to disable the personalized search and be set as default by the browser. To do this, open the settings and then go to Search and click Manage search engines.

From here, you will see a list for “Other search engines.” You can enter additional search engines here. Simply enter a name like Depersonalized within the first box, then a URL like “www.domain.com” in the keyword box. Then in the “URL with %s in place of query” box, paste the following:

http://www.google.com/search?q=%s&pws=0

Chrome depersonalized search 1

Now select to make your new search engine default, and your search results should be generic from here on out. To convert back to a personalized search results, simply return to these settings and select Google or other search engine from the menu.

We hope this comprehensive guide has helped you to learn more about safe and private browsing and how you can protect your privacy when using Google. Share your thoughts and other tips in comments below.

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