Outside Google filter bubbles

This fall, I didn’t recognize the ways that a search history can be harmful. Even if a site means to be polite, it can still cause problems.

One problem is that you could end up in a filter bubble. Inside the bubble, you see things you already knew. You can enter an echo chamber where you hear what you already believe.

So, I decided: Let’s get out of my Google filter bubble. It wasn’t easy (which didn’t surprise me) but I got it done in Firefox.

I blocked all Google and YouTube cookies as well as their saved login information.

My goal was narrow. I didn’t want to improve privacy around Google. There are better tools for that. I just wanted to eliminate Google’s awareness of who I am. I did my best to not affect other services unnecessarily.

Some consequences that I know about:

  • You can’t read Gmail.
  • You can’t turn on SafeSearch in Google Images.
  • You can’t leave comments or thumb videos on YouTube.
  • You can’t use Watch Later in YouTube.
  • You have no history in YouTube.
  • Google Books lets you view extremely little of books (less than 5 pages).
  • You get the same ad links over and over.

I did some more investigation about the content of search results but I’ll explore that later.

Steps:

  1. Close google and youtube windows
  2. Block these domains from creating cookies
  3. Search for and delete all of the cookies containing
    • google
    • youtube
  4. Search for google in saved logins and delete them
  5. Block saved passwords from https://accounts.google.com
  6. When the browser prompts you to remember a password from google or youtube while you’re browsing, Select “Never remember password for this site.” This should only happen a couple of times.

More detailed steps:


To block cookies from a list of domains:

  1. Go to options.
  2. Select the Privacy tab on the left.
  3. Change the pull down next to “Firefox will:” to “Use custom settings for history”
  4. Click the “Exceptions…” button.
  5. One at a time, enter each of the domains above in the “Address of website” and the click “Block” [“https” is not equivalent to “http”].
  6. Click “Save Changes…”

To search and delete cookies:

  1. Go to the “Privacy” tab
  2. Press “Show cookies….” button
  3. Put “google” in the search box
  4. Select all of the cookies that the search finds and Click “remove”
  5. Repeat 3 & 4 for “youtube”

Delete saved logins:

  1. Under security, click “Saved Logins…”
  2. Search for “google”
  3. Select all of them and the click remove.

Block saved logins:

  1. Under Security, click “Exceptions”
  2. Add https://accounts.google.com and click the “Block” button
  3. Click “Save Changes”

After you block the google cookies, searching cookies for google again later can find cookies. Most of the ones I’ve seen in that situation have ‘google’ in the body of the cookie, not in the domain.

After you block Google cookies, you migh search cookies and find google again. They have google in the content and not domain.

I didn’t explicitly block googlesyndication.com nor google-analytics.com. I haven’t investigated their importance. It appears that blocking the cookies suggested in this post prevents google-analytics.com from leaving cookies as well.

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