As posted on Google is using your entire search history to create a personalized news feed
Google, perhaps more than any other tech giant, knows an astonishing amount about you.
Your search history alone could be enough to paint a surprisingly vivid portrait of everything, from your current hobbies to your deepest darkest secrets . Not to mention everything you’ve ever done in Google’s many other services, like YouTube and Maps.
Now, Google is taking everything it’s learned about you (and everything it’s guessed about you) and is using it to create a personalized feed. The feed will appear alongside search on Google’s apps and, eventually, in your browser and other platforms.
Think of it as Google’s answer to Facebook’s News Feed, only instead of updates from friends, you’ll see links to content Google thinks will interest you.
The feed itself is a mix of cards with links to news stories, YouTube videos, sports scores, recipes and other content based on what Google’s determined you’re most likely to be interested in at that particular moment.
It will appear underneath the search box in the Google app, Pixel launcher, and — later on — google.com.
If that sounds familiar, that’s because the concept of a personalized feed to accompany search isn’t entirely new. The search giant has tinkered with various versions of a feed for years — most notably with Google Now, which created a similar interest-based feed as well as proactive suggestions based on what was in your inbox or on your calendar.
The feed will appear underneath the search box (left). You can also choose to follow topics directly from search results (right).
Much more than a repackaged Google Now
Although the new feed may look similar to what’s been in the Google app for some time, the company says it’s much more than a repackaged Google Now. For one, it’s gotten far more intelligent, according to VP of Engineering, Shashi Thakur.
He says the feed can now discern the difference between topics that are new interests and those that you’ve been following for a long time.
When surfacing news stories with “multiple viewpoints,” it will attempt to showcase “diverse perspectives” and highlight relevant fact checks, when available. (Consider this Google’s apparent solution to that pesky filter bubble problem.)
The feed is primarily driven by your search history, but your prior searches aren’t the only factors that determine what you’ll see. It also takes into account your location, videos you’ve watched on YouTube, and details it knows based on info from other Google services.
If, for instance, you’re planning a trip, the feed can surface an article relevant to your destination and your interests. You can also choose to follow specific topics from within search results.
There are some downsides
Of course, there could be potential downsides to this kind of hyper-personalization.
There’s a good chance your Google search history is home to at least a few embarrassing or sensitive details that you may not want to be broadcast front and center each time you launch a search (pro-tip: incognito mode is your friend). This could be particularly embarrassing if you’re in the habit of mixing work and personal accounts (again, incognito mode is your friend — if you must).
Google says it has a plan to address these types of issues. Besides being able to explicitly unfollow a given topic, the app will automatically block certain types of content from appearing in the feed, like porn and hate speech.
A company spokesperson also said that certain “sensitive interests,” like those relating to sexual orientation and religion will also not be used in the feed.
You could also opt out of the feed experience entirely.
Google would rather you didn’t, of course. While it may not seem like a huge update — depending on how much you use the Google app, you may not even notice the new feed at first (it will also be available on Pixel phones via the Pixel launcher) — Google clearly has big plans for the feature.
It plans to roll out the feed to browsers later this year and the company said it could come to more Android handsets and other “surfaces” where people conduct searches from in the future as well.