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Google sanitizing search results

Bondi Beach
Updated:

I have "Safe Search" turned off. Nevertheless, Google seems to return results that are deliberately sanitized.

For example, an image of a middle-aged woman holding her breasts and kneeling before a nude middle-aged man and sucking his cock returns results labeled "Man," with other images of men in underwear with a few couples thrown in. ETA: The images are not explicit.

For example, a holiday snap of girlfriend topless, nothing sexual, returns results labeled "Barechested," with images of bare-chested men.

The results don't vary if I'm signed in to Google or not. Searches based on text strings, e.g., "cocksucking" return the expected list of porn sites.

Has Google changed its image search algorithm? This is important for those of us doing professional research.

bb

Replies:   REP  Switch Blayde  Not_a_ID
REP
Updated:

@Bondi Beach

Is there actually a search engine and algorithm that returns what you ask for?

I put in a keyword and get one or two loosely related hits on what I'm looking for and almost everything else that is totally unrelated. Refining the search string doesn't seem to help much.

Replies:   Bondi Beach
Bondi Beach

@REP

Is there actually a search engine and algorithm that returns what you ask for?


A text string returns results that are mix from on target to an equal number of sites that seem to return the text string and whatever they've got on their page, which often has no relation to my query.

The problem, if it is one, is when I do an image search (drag the image to the Google search bar and Google can't find the image anywhere. Surprising, since I'm usually looking for info on a picture I downloaded from somewhere.

bb

Replies:   REP
REP

@Bondi Beach

I've never heard of an image search before.

Switch Blayde

@Bondi Beach

I tried Google image search once and gave up.

Not_a_ID

@Bondi Beach

The results don't vary if I'm signed in to Google or not. Searches based on text strings, e.g., "cocksucking" return the expected list of porn sites.

Has Google changed its image search algorithm? This is important for those of us doing professional research.


Google tailors their search results to the user their system believes it is dealing with. And being logged in or out doesn't make much of a difference on that count. (As they probably have a non-login specific cookie to track you with as well)

But anyhow they will also track you by:
1) User Login (and locations(list to follow) it has used in the past)
2) MAC Address of the device being used.
3) IP Address being used.
4) Other browser/device specific data being reported back as part of the query/page load.
And probably a couple other criteria as well.

They've become reasonably good at determining whether or not they're dealing with "a different person" at a given IP specifically, and sometimes even on a specific device even without their needing to change logins. But as many/most people have devices specific to themselves, or otherwise have person specific browser profiles, if not differing browser preferences(Joe uses IE, Sue uses FireFox, Bob uses Chrome), and/or different system logins in general, they do a "pretty good job" of guessing how many people live at/use Google from a given IP and a lot about those people. Even without their needing to explicitly provide it.

There have been a few TED talks on how Google attempts to track users, and how it likewise attempts to tailor results to be "more relevant" for the person issuing the search query. The one I remember most vividly was shortly after the "Arab Spring" had happened, the speaker had two friends take screenshots of the their first page results after Googling "Egypt."

One had news reports and sites discussing the civil unrest that was happening at the time.

The other had the wiki Article as the closest thing he had to mentioning unrest(and that wasn't in the search result, he would have needed to read the wiki page to get that), otherwise his results consisted of information about the pyramids, how to book a hotel room, a quote for room rates in Cairo, and so forth.

Google's search algorithm had decided that he wouldn't be interested in reading about riots in Egypt, so those results "were not relevant" so they didn't even make his first page of results.

Replies:   Bondi Beach  Bondi Beach
Ross at Play
Updated:

If you try to escape them, you'll find Google won't give up their "right" to track everything you do without a fight.
Today, I started using the Tor Browser (going via proxies) for Google searches. After a while I got this error message:

Our systems have detected unusual traffic from your computer network.

The rationale they gave for not processing my search request was I was doing something that can be done by those using "robots".
The solution they offered was to always log in with them before any searches - to make certain they can continue tracking your every movement. :(

I switched to a different search engine.

Geek of Ages

@Ross at Play

The way Tor works, fundamentally, is by creating unusual traffic. That's how it provides anonymity. It looks a lot like how a bot would look by design.

Replies:   Ross at Play
Switch Blayde

@Ross at Play

I switched to a different search engine.


I tried many search engines. None compare to Google. Don't cut off your nose to spite your face.

Ross at Play
Updated:

@Geek of Ages

The way Tor works, fundamentally, is by creating unusual traffic. That's how it provides anonymity. It looks a lot like how a bot would look by design.

I don't know enough to say you are wrong, but my browser appears to be telling me that all traffic from all currently open tabs is going through the same three IP addresses before entering the internet, and then coming back in the reverse order.

Replies:   Geek of Ages
Geek of Ages

@Ross at Play

Yes. That doesn't contradict what I said.

Dominions Son

@Ross at Play

I switched to a different search engine.


Don't bet on a different search engine not tracking you the same way Google does. Targeted advertising is how all of the search engines make money.

Replies:   John Demille
John Demille

@Dominions Son

Don't bet on a different search engine not tracking you the same way Google does.


Try DuckDuckGo, they declare themselves as a non-tracking search engine.

Dominions Son
Updated:

@John Demille


Try DuckDuckGo, they declare themselves as a non-tracking search engine.


I would take any such declarations with a small mountain of salt.

Search engines make their money from targeted advertising. Some level of tracking (even if it's only keeping tract of what you search for) is vital to targeted advertising.

If they don't make money, they will vanish.

Switch Blayde

@John Demille

Try DuckDuckGo


I did. The results were nothing like Google's.

Bondi Beach

@Not_a_ID

But anyhow they will also track you by:
1) User Login (and locations(list to follow) it has used in the past)
2) MAC Address of the device being used.
3) IP Address being used.
4) Other browser/device specific data being reported back as part of the query/page load.
And probably a couple other criteria as well.


Can they see my device even if I'm behind a router? If yes, it's pretty much hopeless, no question. If not, rebooting the router will change the IP address, even if it will remain with the range my ISP has assigned to my area. Killing cookies might help, I guess, but they'd still know what browser and which version I had.

And if Google thinks it knows I'm the (same) guy doing the search, why the disparity between results for text strings and results for images?

bb

Dominions Son

@Bondi Beach

If not, rebooting the router will change the IP address


Actually, unless someone else is rebooting their router at the same time, the odds strongly favor you getting the same IP address back.

Not_a_ID
Updated:

@Bondi Beach


Can they see my device even if I'm behind a router? If yes, it's pretty much hopeless, no question. If not, rebooting the router will change the IP address, even if it will remain with the range my ISP has assigned to my area.


NAT(Network Address Translation) tends to mean they're likely to have the MAC address of the originating device(unless explicitly run through a proxy, in which case the MAC for the proxy will be used).

And rebooting the router won't change your MAC address. That is assigned at the time your device was manufactured, and while it can be changed, most people never will do so, and no consumer software is likely to do so without user prompting.

Replies:   Bondi Beach
Bondi Beach

@Not_a_ID

And rebooting the router won't change your MAC address.


Right. That's why I'm interested in masking it, if there's any way to do that.

On the IP address, I'll see if turning the router off overnight lets whatever lease they've given me expire.

bb

JohnBobMead

Google appears to "analyze" the image, then assign text to it, and search for images matching that text.

I normally use Yandex for my image searches; what comes back usually greatly resembles the image I submitted to be searched, in regard to stance, background, etc.

Yandex also doesn't apply localization information to the image search, which Google does.

With Google, if I'd just been visiting a number of Japanese sites, but was trying to ID a Ukrainian model I'd found a picture of there, it would look at other Japanese sites first; Yandex would look for the best match, regardless of where it was found, which drastically improved the success of that search.

There are times Google's localization process is very useful. Other times it's the exact opposite. Unfortunately, they don't seem to be willing to allow you to decide for yourself when you'd like them to apply it to your search.

Replies:   sejintenej
Ernest Bywater

@Bondi Beach

Can they see my device even if I'm behind a router?


The usual process is the router will have your internal address as one IP and the external address as another IP, and anyone out there will see the router address. If you have three computers on the network using the Internet the world will see the three of them as the same entity because they see the router's address.

I use Tunnel Bear which gives me a VPN link to one of their offices overseas and dumps me into the Internet there, and not at my ISP. Thus any tracking shows me as being where the Tunnel Bear office is, and I regularly switch that from being the USA office to the Canadian office. It also confuses the tracking because over time the IP is used by a wide range of people doing different requests.

Replies:   Friar Dave
Bondi Beach

@Not_a_ID

But anyhow they will also track you by:
1) User Login (and locations(list to follow) it has used in the past)
2) MAC Address of the device being used.


At least part of the Internet believes an exterior web site can only see, at most, the MAC address of your router.

https://security.stackexchange.com/questions/61321/how-can-a-webpage-get-the-mac-address

bb

saquestor

May be relevant... may not be...

http://lifehacksthatwork.com/want-to-see-what-dirt-google-has-on-you/

Friar Dave

@Ernest Bywater

I use Tunnel Bear which gives me a VPN link to one of their offices overseas and dumps me into the Internet there, and not at my ISP. Thus any tracking shows me as being where the Tunnel Bear office is, and I regularly switch that from being the USA office to the Canadian office. It also confuses the tracking because over time the IP is used by a wide range of people doing different requests.


That only works if you don't use Chrome. Chrome reports everything about you to Google. All your internet activities. All of it. Chrome isn't a neutral browser that simply connects you to sites.

Even if you don't use chrome but have Chrome installed on your computer, Chrome's updater monitors everything you do and reports it to Google.

I find it hilarious that some people go to extreme measures to avoid 'tracking' while using Chrome as their browser, nullifying all their efforts in avoiding tracking.

Ernest Bywater

@Friar Dave

I find it hilarious that some people go to extreme measures to avoid 'tracking' while using Chrome as their browser, nullifying all their efforts in avoiding tracking.


True, but it depends on who they're trying to stop tracking them. Using an anonymous server with Chrome may leave you open to the Google tracking, but it will stop the government tracking for countries not ruled by the US Patriot Act.

Replies:   Friar Dave
Capt. Zapp

@Friar Dave

I find it hilarious that some people go to extreme measures to avoid 'tracking' while using Chrome as their browser


So which browser do you recommend?

Replies:   Friar Dave  graybyrd
Friar Dave

@Ernest Bywater

but it will stop the government tracking for countries not ruled by the US Patriot Act.


Maybe, maybe not. You never know what kind of deals google makes to operate everywhere without governments interference.

Friar Dave

@Capt. Zapp

So which browser do you recommend?


Firefox has long been supported by google, so not much trust there.

Tor (built on Firefox) asserts that they do their best for anonymity, but its mere existence could be a honey pot to surveil those having something to hide.

While no US company can be 100% trusted (as you never know what kind of legal pressure the agencies can exert on companies), I give the best chance of preserving my privacy to Apple and its Safari browser. Apple is the only company that doesn't seem to engage in user tracking as they don't do advertising and have long championed user privacy and are creating technologies that preserve user privacy (Latest Safari anti-tracking technology has pissed off advertising agencies). They're even slowing down their own machine learning/AI efforts in order to not use/mine user data. But of course, if you don't have a Mac, you can't use Safari, so this privacy comes at a price.

Replies:   paliden  saquestor
paliden

@Friar Dave

if you don't have a Mac, you can't use Safari


Link for downloading Safari for windows.

http://www.browserwin.com/safari/

Replies:   Friar Dave
Friar Dave

@paliden

That's an old, and very outdated version of safari. Apple dropped windows support in safari at least five years ago.

graybyrd

@Capt. Zapp

So which browser do you recommend?


Try Pale Moon, the Firefox alternative.

www.palemoon.org

helmut_meukel

@Friar Dave

I find it hilarious that some people go to extreme measures to avoid 'tracking' while using Chrome as their browser, nullifying all their efforts in avoiding tracking.


I use Opera, because I didn't want to use Crome or M$ Internet Explorer.

HM.

saquestor

@Friar Dave

Apple is the only company that doesn't seem to engage in user tracking as they don't do advertising and have long championed user privacy and are creating technologies that preserve user privacy


I've run a Mac for 10 years or more. I also run some apps - NoScript - Ghostery - Disconnect - Adblock Plus to help stop and/or get around ad trackers.

Apple... does not - regardless of their publicity - block or restrict tracker cookies.

Almost every site I visit (98%+) have a cookie called 'Google-Analytics' and guess what... no script blocks 'em (and dozens more) as default.

I'm not saying that Google doesn't track my internet usage, but I choose to not make it easy for them.

Oh... I taped over - just in case - my camera. ;-)

DO NOT trust any mega-corp to have your best interests at heart... they do not.

Friar Dave

@saquestor

I'm not saying that Google doesn't track my internet usage, but I choose to not make it easy for them.


Google's presence is so pervasive that it's nearly impossible that they don't track you at least partially.

If you use their Free DNS server they know exactly where you're going on the internet all the time. They may not know what you view exactly, but they know all the sites you visit.

Many sites rely on jquery and they load it from Google's servers. When your browser requests it, google knows where you're visiting.

Many sites use fonts from Google. When your browser requests the font from a google server, google knows where you're visiting.

Google offers so many free services to webmasters that nearly all sites use one or more of those services as it's irresistible to webmasters not to include one or more of Google's services that end up tracking you.

If you have a Gmail address google knows all your correspondences.

If you have an android phone, Google knows everything about you from your location to whatever you say.

Google is everywhere whether you know it or not and they know everything about anybody who goes online. And it's not strictly for serving ads. That's the declared motivation, but there is more sinister tracking going on.

When you think about it and realize it, you might get creeped off the internet, even though life has become difficult without the internet.

Geek of Ages

Given that ISPs use DPI to see everything you send/receive anyway, the whole thing is kind of moot.

Replies:   John Demille
John Demille

@Geek of Ages

Given that ISPs use DPI to see everything you send/receive anyway, the whole thing is kind of moot.


DPI (Deep Packet Inspection) can only be used on unencrypted traffic (unless your ISP is involved in a man-in-the-middle attack). Most web traffic is now encrypted (reached 50% at the start of 2016), so DPI isn't as much concern as it used to be.

Replies:   Geek of Ages
Geek of Ages

@John Demille

ISPs are installing root certs on modems or (ina couple of cases I've heard) on client machines, to circumvent the encryption. We will likely start seeing ISP contracts that require that in order to get Internet service.

Replies:   Michael Loucks
Switch Blayde

@saquestor

DO NOT trust any mega-corp to have your best interests at heart... they do not.


No, but it doesn't mean they're out to get you.

Replies:   JohnBobMead
JohnBobMead

@Switch Blayde

No, but it doesn't mean they're out to get you.


Truth, that.

As an unaffiliated individual, anyway.

As a member of a group, more problematic, as groups have greater impact upon their operations and goals. Get active in a group in conflict with them, things might change in how they look at you as an individual.

But that's true for everything, with everyone, not just mega-corps.

Michael Loucks

@Geek of Ages

ISPs are installing root certs on modems or (ina couple of cases I've heard) on client machines, to circumvent the encryption. We will likely start seeing ISP contracts that require that in order to get Internet service.


At which point, ISPs become 'man-in-the-middle' attackers and you can't have true end-to-end security for banking, etc. I can't even begin to imagine the potential liability for an ISP to do that (an employer is a different thing).

I know Steve Gibson from GRC has suggested this as something which might happen (for a host of reasons), and if it does, that's the end of ANY semblance of security or privacy on the internet, at least without jumping through hoops). Of course, that's also the wet dream of the 'security' agencies - a place to read ALL your traffic without you knowing about it in any way.

Sigh.

Replies:   Geek of Ages  Not_a_ID
Geek of Ages

@Michael Loucks

the end of ANY semblance of security or privacy on the internet


Yes, that is the intended end-game, in service to the mighty dollar. That it turns us even more into a police state is just icing on the cake for whoever runs things when we reach the point of no return.

I am quite sour and cynical when it comes to the future. I hope I'm proven wrong.

Not_a_ID
Updated:

@Michael Loucks


if it does, that's the end of ANY semblance of security or privacy on the internet, at least without jumping through hoops


I guess I'm more "mixed" on this. I've pretty much concluded "privacy in a high technology setting" doesn't exist. BTW we don't currently qualify for this particular usage of "high technology."

As technology becomes increasingly advanced, it is becoming increasingly clear that tracking things in general becomes MUCH easier.

Which just leaves open the matter of how society itself adjusts to that new reality. It can either go for a dysfunctional path where hypocrisy continues to try to rule, or a more practical path of "most things don't really matter in the grand scheme of things."

But that means fostering a culture of tolerance and openness that even the "Social Justice Warriors" who claim to be all about acceptance and tolerance, don't seem to be able to buy into.

Maybe after enough rounds of hypocrites(not to be confused with openly practicing bigots) getting burned on their own proverbial stakes things will start to shift, but that probably going to take a few generations to get there. And that will only be possible if information is allowed to "remain free" rather than being locked away behind closed doors that only a select group of people can tap into at will.

As discomfiting as the idea of a world without privacy is, the "practical side" of it the implementation/preparation for it is largely straight forward enough:

Part one: Promote rational thought over emotional thought. (We're so fucked)

Part two: Conduct your life in a manner of straight forward honesty. If you don't try to harbor any "deep dark secrets" or go about perpetuating lies and hypocrisies in the first place, there should be little to fear.

Of course, the fly in the ointment right now is society itself does not truly want total honesty. Hypocrisy is the modus operandi of far too many people. (But their ability to continue doing so is waning)

For the ones that aren't being hypocritical, that doesn't inoculate them from being wholly irrational when it comes to certain topics.

Which is perhaps the biggest problem facing society as we progress into a social milieu where secrets are difficult to keep secret. The irrational, unthinking, response to things people haven't given any real consideration about beyond how they feel about it based on some anecdotal information they picked up somewhere that they may not even remember. "Everybody knows....."

Geek of Ages

@Not_a_ID

The term you are looking for is "Transparent Society".

Bondi Beach

@Not_a_ID

As technology becomes increasingly advanced, it is becoming increasingly clear that tracking things in general becomes MUCH easier.


I worry about corporate interests (Google, in this case, or Facebook's feed), dictating what search results I see based on what they know about me.

bb

Replies:   Not_a_ID
Not_a_ID
Updated:

@Bondi Beach


I worry about corporate interests (Google, in this case, or Facebook's feed), dictating what search results I see based on what they know about me.


They've been doing it for years:

https://www.frequencycast.co.uk/filterbubble.html

Or to get the direct link (2011 presentation):

http://www.ted.com/talks/eli_pariser_beware_online_filter_bubbles.html

So when I was growing up in a really rural area in Maine, the Internet meant something very different to me. It meant a connection to the world. It meant something that would connect us all together. And I was sure that it was going to be great for democracy and for our society. But there's this shift in how information is flowing online, and it's invisible. And if we don't pay attention to it, it could be a real problem. So I first noticed this in a place I spend a lot of time -- my Facebook page. I'm progressive, politically -- big surprise -- but I've always gone out of my way to meet conservatives. I like hearing what they're thinking about; I like seeing what they link to; I like learning a thing or two. And so I was surprised when I noticed one day that the conservatives had disappeared from my Facebook feed. And what it turned out was going on was that Facebook was looking at which links I clicked on, and it was noticing that, actually, I was clicking more on my liberal friends' links than on my conservative friends' links. And without consulting me about it, it had edited them out. They disappeared


Google's doing it too. If I search for something, and you search for something, even right now at the very same time, we may get very different search results. Even if you're logged out, one engineer told me, there are 57 signals that Google looks at -- everything from what kind of computer you're on to what kind of browser you're using to where you're located -- that it uses to personally tailor your query results. Think about it for a second: there is no standard Google anymore. And you know, the funny thing about this is that it's hard to see. You can't see how different your search results are from anyone else's.

Replies:   Bondi Beach
Bondi Beach

@Not_a_ID

They've been doing it for years:


Right. Which is why I continue to look for ways to reduce that effect.

bb

Michael Loucks

@Not_a_ID

As discomfiting as the idea of a world without privacy is, the "practical side" of it the implementation/preparation for it is largely straight forward enough:


[snip]

All of this is addressed in detail in my series 'A Well-Lived Life'. Of course, you have to get through quite a bit of drama before you get to the 'good stuff' if you're looking for analysis of the anti-social developments in our 'modern' society...

Replies:   Not_a_ID
sejintenej

@JohnBobMead

Unfortunately, they don't seem to be willing to allow you to decide for yourself when you'd like them to apply it to your search.

Whenever it is possible (such as your Ukrainian model) I will specify a country and even a town. In your case there must be 50 others with her same name somewhere in the world - perhaps on a social site

Replies:   JohnBobMead
Not_a_ID

@Michael Loucks

All of this is addressed in detail in my series 'A Well-Lived Life'. Of course, you have to get through quite a bit of drama before you get to the 'good stuff' if you're looking for analysis of the anti-social developments in our 'modern' society...


A lot of the anti-social stuff we're contending with today are the direct result of either a small handful of 19th Century philosophers or the Royal Court of Queen Victoria of the United Kingdom of Great Britain etc etc etc.

JohnBobMead

@sejintenej

In your case there must be 50 others with her same name somewhere in the world - perhaps on a social site


That was the thing, I didn't have a name; that's what I was trying to find. And the originating site's logo had been removed, so I didn't have a clue who she was modeling for.

All I had was an image, with no information other than the website I'd found it on IDing her as a Ukrainian model. In Japanese, of course.

Trying to narrow the search to the Ukraine might not have been all that useful; I don't remember who this particular model turned out to be, but The Metart Network, for instance, is managed by a firm located in Seattle, Washington, so while many of their models are Ukrainian, the websites are American.

This is where an image search engine that actually tries to match all the details of an image is crucial. If Google successfully IDs the image, it will link to tons of useful information, but if it doesn't, it may decide it's an image of a female, and return images of females, without any regard to age, ethnicity, stance, etc. Yandex will return images that match the stance, background, and most of the time ethnicity and hair color. Google will filter it's results based upon your profile in their records. Yandex doesn't, so far as I've experienced.

Replies:   awnlee jawking
awnlee jawking

@JohnBobMead

And the originating site's logo had been removed


Dumb question, but did the image have a watermark? They can be quite hard to see sometimes.

AJ

Replies:   JohnBobMead
JohnBobMead

@awnlee jawking

Dumb question, but did the image have a watermark? They can be quite hard to see sometimes.


Not a dumb question at all! Watermarks can be very helpful in tracing the history of an item.

Not that I'm aware of; at least, my examination of the image searching for details to help differentiate it from all the similer models didn't reveal one. I wasn't specifically looking for one, however.

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